Nigeria, African Nations Need To Provide Comprehensive Care to HIV-Positive People, MSF Says
Nigeria and other African nations need to provide comprehensive health care, including antiretroviral medications, to HIV-positive people at no cost in order to prevent treatment interruptions and drug resistance, Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Tuesday at a news conference, Reuters reports (Reuters, 12/6). MSF this week at the 14th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa in Abuja, Nigeria, released a study that surveyed 122 HIV-positive patients who came to an MSF clinic in Lagos, Nigeria, after receiving treatment from other clinics or hospitals. The study found that 72% of the patients had stopped taking their medications, primarily because the drugs were too expensive or the programs providing the medications ran out of stock (Balint-Kurti, AP/Pravda.ru, 12/7). Of patients who had paid for their medications, 44% had interrupted their treatment because of an inability to pay, Francois Giddey, who heads the Dutch section of MSF's operation in Nigeria, said. Patients enrolled in the Lagos clinic program who had never recieved treatment responded twice as well to antiretroviral treatment provided at no cost as patients who previously received medications inconsistently, according to the study (Reuters, 12/6). Mark Willis, head of Nigerian programs at the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said that "interruption for any reason" causes "concern about developing resistance to the drugs," adding, "It's a problem which needs to be addressed" (AP/Pravda.ru, 12/7). "There is a direct correlation between the failure of the drugs and the burden of paying for treatment," Giddey said. Even those who receive the drugs at no cost still must pay for diagnostic tests and the treatment of opportunistic infections, so "comprehensive treatment, not just the drugs, should be free for all those who need it," he added (Reuters, 12/6). The Nigerian government said that charging people for their treatment is necessary to cover the cost of distribution and maintain savings in case donors decide to halt funding. Nigeria has the third-highest number of HIV/AIDS cases of any country in the world, after South Africa and India (AP/Pravda.ru, 12/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.