Togo Resumes No-Cost Antiretroviral Treatment Program
People living with HIV/AIDS in Togo will be able to resume or begin no-cost antiretroviral treatment as a result of a restocked government program, which had not been able to supply the drugs since November 2007, IRIN News reports. The National AIDS Control Program estimates that an additional 4,000 people will be able to access the drugs. According to Takouda Pelei -- deputy director of the state medical purchasing agency, CAMEG -- there are enough antriretrovirals to treat people already enrolled in the program, as well as an additional 4,000 people, until August 2009. The country also was approved to receive an additional $94 million in funding from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria over the next five years. Of the $94 million, $25 million will go toward stocking antiretrovirals and other drugs to treat opportunistic infections.
In 2006, the Global Fund suspended part of a grant to Togo and then turned down the government's request for funding in 2007 because of "irregularities" in oversight. From June 2007 to November 2007, new patients were denied access to antiretrovirals, and patients already receiving the drugs were told they would not receive treatment for three months. More than 3,000 people who did not receive subsides had monthly antiretroviral costs of either $9 or $47, depending on the medication. According to the World Bank, the average monthly income in the country in 2007 was $30. Protests resulted as thousands of HIV-positive people, unable to access or pay for antiretrovirals, used antibiotics or halted treatment entirely, IRIN News reports. In order to address interruptions in therapy, the government purchased $365,000 worth of supplies and support from the French Network for Therapeutic Solidarity in Hospitals and borrowed stocks of antiretrovirals from Burkina Faso and Benin.
Pelei said that it is critical to avoid another shortage of antiretrovirals, adding that treatment cannot be turned "on and off without risking the patient's life." HIV/AIDS groups and the government report that an additional 18,000 people still are in need of antiretroviral treatment. The most up-to-date report of the number of people on antiretroviral treatment estimates that 11,490 had access to the drugs at the end of 2007 (IRIN News, 1/21).