Treating HIV/AIDS in Moldova's breakaway region of Transnistria

On Friday, May 4, MSF began treating its first HIV positive patients in Moldova's breakaway region of Transnistria. Four patients, who had previously been treated by the local health authorities with inadequate medication, were switched to a triple-dose ARV treatment regime after undergoing adherence training by MSF nurses. At present, MSF is in the process of setting up an HIV/AIDS programme in Transnistria. It is planned to put between 100 and 150 HIV positive patients on life-prolonging ARV therapy by end of 2007. Due to the international isolation of Transnistria, its healthcare system and population has been largely denied access to Moldovan government health funds/medicines, particularly ARV treatment for HIV/AIDS. This is in spite of the fact that Moldova is the recipient of funds to cover the whole population, including the breakaway region, and that the prevalence of HIV in Transnistria is four times higher than in Moldova, according to official statistics. During the last week of April, work began on rehabilitating a section of the infectious diseases department of the Republican hospital in order to create the first Out Patient Department (OPD) for HIV positive patients in the region. At the same time, training began of local medical staff, the majority of whom know little or nothing about the HIV virus and the impact it is having on society. While tackling the immediate problem of lack of access to healthcare by setting up the OPD and providing life-prolonging ARV's, MSF's other priority will be to advocate for People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in Transnistria to have the same access to quality HIV/AIDS care as their Moldovan counterparts. By being the first International NGO to establish a mission in Transnistria, MSF hopes to demonstrate to donors and other stakeholders that it is possible to work in this region and provide aid to the most vulnerable.