Lao People's Democratic Republic: MSF sets up first HIV/AIDS referral service

MSF is the only NGO treating AIDS patients with triple therapy in a public health facility in Cambodia, a country where most of the money for HIV/AIDS goes essentially to prevention programs. The Chronic Disease Clinic in Siem Reap, an MSF initiative which opened in April 2002, is hoping to benefit from the experiences at Norodom Sihanouk Hospital and at MSF's ARV programs in Thailand and eventually introduce antiretrovirals. MSF is currently treating AIDS patients for related infections and also focusing on other chronic diseases for which there is very limited treatment in Cambodia, such as diabetes, hypertension and arthritis. Health standards are dreadfully low in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos). The public health system has been poorly maintained and is inaccessible to a large percentage of the population. The HIV/AIDS infection rate is increasing even though the number of people infected is lower than in neighboring countries. With HIV testing only available in 12 out of 18 provinces, official statistics are almost certainly unrepresentative of the real infection rate. MSF estimates that at least 4,000 of the country's people now live with HIV/AIDS. Since June 2001, MSF has focused on establishing the country's first referral service for HIV/AIDS in the southern province of Savannakhet, the province with the highest number of HIV cases in the country and a population of 766,000. The team supports the provincial hospital in providing palliative care for HIV-infected patients and by supplying medicines. One of the program's goals is to strengthen the referral service and consultations for people suffering from AIDS-related opportunistic infections. It also provides training and technical assistance for local doctors and nurses. Furthermore, MSF runs home-based care for people living with HIV/AIDS. MSF has worked in the Lao People's Democratic Republic since 1990. International staff: 4 National staff: 19