In Khayelitsha, South Africa, MSF is running an anti-retroviral therapy (ART) treatment programme where the results have been exceptional. Based on the results from the first six months of treatment to 177 patients in the programme, over 85% of the patients have responded with high rates of improvement. A pilot programme for MSF, the patients who are in the ART programme started with an immune response level so low that the results prove the possibility of ART treatment in even the most severe, and seemingly hopeless, situations.
The number of people in the programme increases frequently and there are currently 220 people receiving ART care from MSF in Khayelitsha.
An anti-retroviral treatment programme treats AIDS patients with drugs intended to reduce the HIV virus levels in their bodies. In tests, the undetectable viral load has climbed to 91%, indicating the HIV infection, although still present, has diminished and the ability of the body's immune system to ward off any attack from opportunistic infections has increased. An indicator for the treatment is the CD4 level of the patients, which measures the normal immune response of the body. The ART programme in Khayelitsha provides a triple cocktail of drugs - mostly generic. Patients visit the clinics every week in the first month and then once a month afterwards. Each time they are assessed by MSF staff and then given treatment.
©: Sebastian Charles, 2002
Patient following the ART treatment in Khayelitsha, a township near Cape Town, South Africa.
MSF initially committed to a five year programme to place 180 patients on antiretroviral therapy in a Cape Town township. However with the recent success in access to generic drugs used in the treatment, MSF has been able to cut the cost of treatment from $4.55 per-patient per-day to just $1.55. As a result, MSF will be increasing its capacity and will be offering ART to some 400 patients.