Not owning a watch does not prevent effective AIDS treatment

Fred Minandi, a farmer, is one of the patients in Malawi taking ARV treatment for AIDS through an MSF project. Speaking at the AIDS Conference, he challenged one of the key myths of providing proper treatment to people in Africa - that Africans cannot tell the time. Despite not owning a watch, he has not missed a single dose since starting triple therapy in August 2001. And the success of the treatment is easily seen.

Fred Minandi, an MSF patient taking antiretroviral treatment in Malawi, talked about his situation: "I am one of the first patients to get ARVs for free in Malawi, and if I am here today able to speak with you it is because of this treatment. There are some people who say that in Africa people will not be able to take drugs because they cannot tell time.

"I can assure you that I have no watch, but since I started taking my triple therapy in August last year, I haven't missed one dose. Why? Because Margot, the MSF nurse, took a bit of time to explain to me how these drugs were working and that if I was not serious enough to take them very regularly, the drugs could not work any more. […] Today, my life is attached to these drugs and I don't think I can forget them."

Until August of last year, Minandi was dying of AIDS, well on his way to the same fate that ended 2.2 million African lives in 2001. But the two pills that he takes each morning, and two more at night, have radically changed his fate.

Sunday, as the 14th International AIDS Conference convened in this spectacular Mediterranean city, Minandi sat at a table, flanked by treatment activists, as living proof that cheap antiviral drugs can save African lives.

"I'm back to normal," he said with a gentle smile. "I am feeling very well." That is precisely what treatment activists say should be happening to 6 million Africans who have AIDS. It may be crucial to avert the 68 million deaths worldwide by 2020 that the United Nations forecast this week.