Cameroonian Organizations Support Program To Provide Antiretroviral Access, Express Concerns About Sustainability
Although some organizations that support people living with HIV in Cameroon welcome the country's efforts to provide universal access to no-cost antiretroviral drugs, they are cautious about other issues associated with making the antiretrovirals accessible to people who need them, IRIN/AllAfrica.com reports (IRIN/AllAfrica.com, 5/31). Health Minister Urbain Olanguena Awono last month announced that the country will provide access to no-cost antiretroviral drugs to all HIV-positive people in the country. According to Awono, the treatment access program will be funded by the government, as well as by groups such as the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Clinton Foundation. The program is expected to cost about 5.5 billion CFA francs, or about $11.9 million, this year. UNAIDS provided the country with a $68 million grant for 2007 to 2009 that partially will fund the program.
The program aims to provide treatment access to nearly 50,000 HIV-positive people. According to a health ministry spokesperson, the program will target about 43,000 HIV-positive adults and 4,000 HIV-positive children. Awono did not say how long the program is scheduled to last. Cameroon previously has offered access to no-cost HIV/AIDS treatment and screening to pregnant women, children, people living with TB, prison inmates and other vulnerable populations. A typical regimen of antiretrovirals costs about $14 monthly in Cameroon (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/23). According to IRIN/AllAfrica.com, treatment for HIV/AIDS-related illnesses also will be provided at no cost under the program.
According to Nathalie Machoussi, executive secretary of the Cameroonian Network of Organizations for People Living With HIV/AIDS, although the government's decision to implement the treatment program is "very good news for people living with HIV," there are issues associated with expanding treatment access. HIV-positive people will have to arrange for transportation to treatment centers, which can be costly for people with low incomes, according to Machoussi. In addition, Machoussi raised concerns about the supply of antiretrovirals running out as more people seek no-cost treatment. "Now that [antiretrovirals] are free, everyone will come to claim them, and this will be difficult if no measures have been put in place," Machoussi added. Awono said the health ministry will conduct an inventory of the supply of antiretrovirals before April 2008 in response to the concerns, IRIN/AllAfrica.com reports (IRIN/AllAfrica.com, 5/31).