Honduras/ART: Showing a first step in treatment

In one year, the clinic did 1,000 HIV tests - 200 of which were positive.

The 60% of people living with HIV/AIDS in Central America live in Honduras. The country is still devastated by Hurricane Mitch. It is estimated that up to 78.5% of Hondurans are illiterate, and most people do not know much about HIV/AIDS, even though they have heard about it.

Doctors are helpless to cope with HIV/AIDS, as they are not trained to treat people with the disease. The situation is not improving, despite several public initiatives and the declaration by the new president, Roberto Maduro, that AIDS is a national priority.

In August 2001, MSF set up a clinic in Tela, in the North of the country. The clinic offers complete treatment against opportunistic infections. In one year, the clinic did 1,000 HIV tests - 200 of which were positive - and took on board prevention, prophylaxis, counselling, patient monitoring, and community visits.

Since July this year, the clinic has also provided antiretroviral therapy. The initial goal is to provide ARVs to 70 adults and 30 children eligible to treatment and who have been treated by the clinic doctors for several months. At the moment, 25 adults and four children are on triple therapy. Treatment outside this clinic costs around $3,000 a month, which is unaffordable for most people - the average salary in Honduras is no more than $250 dollars.

The MSF initiative is a first step to demonstrate that Honduras can do something about the AIDS epidemic. There is further hope: the Global Fund has awarded 42 million dollars to the country, and the government spent an initial 190,000 dollars last April to introduce ARVs. MSF is negotiating with the government, pharmaceutical companies and others to decrease brand drug prices and increase the use of cheaper generics.