MSF treats first patient with anti-retrovirals in Laos

Vientiane/Geneva - For the first time in the history of Laos a patient is receiving antiretroviral drugs (HAART - Highly Active Anti Retroviral Therapy) for the treatment of Aids. HAART is a highly effective combination of drugs that allows patients with Aids to lead a normal life. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has now started the treatment and is aiming to provide as many patients as possible with access to HAART. On October 28th 2003, MSF will be holding an inauguration ceremony in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, with all its partners in the fight against HIV/Aids. Kinoy, a young woman has just started her treatment in the hospital of Savannaketh, 500 kilometres south of the capital Vientiane. She is the first patient to receive HAART in Laos as part of an official programme. Access to this treatment will allow her to lead a normal life in spite of Aids and offers hope to others infected. Until today people in Laos had no access to such prolonging medicine. For years MSF has been trying through its Access to Essential Medicines Campaign to make anti-retroviral drugs available to the world's poor and now thanks to international pressure and increasing generic competition worldwide, the prices have dropped considerably. MSF's Aids/HIV programme in Laos started in July 2001 in Savannakhet Province and has provided treatment to opportunistic diseases for Aids-patients. MSF in cooperation with local and national authorities has now received permission to introduce HAART into its programmes. In the future MSF aims to bring HAART to all patients suffering from HIV/Aids in and around Savannaketh. MSF is also looking for ways to expand its treatment programme to other parts of the country. MSF has been present in Laos for 10 years. There are currently about 5,000 Aids-patients worldwide receiving antiretroviral treatment from MSF.