HIV-Positive Batwa in Democratic Republic of the Congo Have Little Access to Treatment, Care, PlusNews Reports
Although HIV prevalence among the Batwa, or pygmies, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is estimated to be lower than the rate for the entire country, "little help is available" for HIV-positive Batwa because of the community's poverty, undernutrition, "social isolation" and lack of health care services, PlusNews reports. According to a report published in the June 10 edition of the journal Lancet, Batwa communities have less access to health care than other nearby communities (PlusNews, 9/13). The report, written by Nyang'ori Ohenjo of the Kenya-based Lesada Communications Network and colleagues, finds that "[e]ven where health care facilities exist, many pygmy people do not use them because they cannot pay for consultations and medicines, do not have the documents and identity cards needed to travel or obtain hospital treatment, or are subjected to humiliating and discriminatory treatment" (Ohenjo et al., Lancet, 6/10). According to PlusNews, a clinic run by Medecins Sans Frontieres 25 kilometers away from the Batwa village of Chombo is the nearest facility offering antiretroviral drugs at no cost. Marhegane Lukhera, an elder in Chombo, said the village recently has started discussing HIV/AIDS more openly. "We teach the children from 12 years old not to have sex; we teach girls not to take money for sex," Lukhera said, adding, "The chief gathers us men together and advises us to stay with our wives, and his wife counsels women not to go outside with other men." UNICEF estimates that about one million HIV-positive people live in the D.R.C., but there is little HIV/AIDS data available for the Batwa, PlusNews reports (PlusNews, 9/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.