Daily Star Examines Antiretroviral Access in Bangladesh
Bangladesh's Daily Star on Friday examined how most people living with HIV/AIDS in the country do not have access to antiretroviral drugs. According to the Star, the country's Essential Drugs Company does not manufacture or provide antiretrovirals to Bangladesh's only infectious diseases hospital because of the drugs' high cost.
The hospital since 1989 has provided treatment guidelines for people living with HIV/AIDS but has been unable to meet its own recommendations because of a lack of funds. An infectious disease specialist at the hospital said it costs between 6,000 Bangladeshi takas, or about $89, and 10,000 takas, or about $148, monthly to provide antiretrovirals for one HIV-positive person. He added that the "hospital does not have any special funds" to treat people living with HIV/AIDS.
According to the specialist, although the hospital treats opportunistic infections that occur among people living with HIV/AIDS and can provide about half of the medications required for such treatment, it cannot provide other support services. Some nongovernmental organizations have reported that the hospital provides only 20% to 30% of the medications needed to treat opportunistic infections in people living with HIV/AIDS.
Bangladesh's National HIV and AIDS Communication Strategy 2005-2010 aims to ensure that all HIV-positive people in the country receive comprehensive treatment and support services by 2010. Lazeena Muna, social mobilization and partnership adviser with UNAIDS, said the country needs an antiretroviral policy to ensure treatment access, adding that a policy was drafted recently but that no action has been taken.
Mohammad Nazrul Islam, a virology professor at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said the government should increase efforts to reduce stigma, as well as increase voluntary HIV testing and counseling to help address the situation. Bangladesh has recorded about 1,200 HIV/AIDS cases, but an estimated 7,500 cases have not been reported in the country, the Star reports (Zannat, Daily Star, 4/18).