World AIDS Day, 2001

From the UK newspaper The Guardian, Nov 30 - In July this year, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said that $10bn a year was needed to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. In the first nine months, $1.5bn has been raised. And the word from donor governments is that AIDS drugs are definitely not the priority. NGOs such as MSF argue that treatment, with drugs, produces a change in behaviour. If people know they will have access to drugs if they are infected, they are much more likely to come forward for testing.

A glimpse at MSF and AIDS care throughout the world

  • AIDS care in Guatemala - MSF works in Hospicio San Jose, Clinica Familiar Luis Angel Garcia at San Juan de Dios Hospital and Roosevelt Hospital, three Guatemalan centres which care for HIV/AIDS patients.
  • Malawi: HIV figures from Malawi About 10% of the population is HIV-positive in Malawi. Some 800,000 are thought to have HIV/AIDS, of which 40,000 are children and 420,000 pregnant women.
  • Thailand: MSF activities in the Surin provincial hospital MSF has worked in the Surin province since the end of 1996. Our work started with the development of home care for HIV-positive persons or those

From the Access to Essential Medicines website:

MSF currently runs or supports more than 20 AIDS programmes in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Medical programmes include prevention efforts, voluntary counselling and testing, psychosocial support and treatment of opportunistic infections using essential medicines. Some of these programmes focus on reducing the transmission of the virus from pregnant mothers to their children. In addition, MSF has launched nine programmes offering ARV treatment in seven countries and currently has approximately 700 patients under treatment. Similar programmes are being planned in other countries as well.

Profiles of people with HIV/AIDS

Mary: "I want to continue living"

Mary is 32 years old and she has suffered from acute polyarthritis from a very young age. Both of her legs are paralysed. She seems fragile but her face and gaze are determined. Her handshake is incredibly firm. Mary has come for her weekly ARV treatment at Chiradzulu hospital, as she has done every week for the last month. It takes her four hours to walk there, and four hours to walk back.

Roderick: "Some people changed towards me"

Roderick is a good-looking young man - a little thin but proud to show how strong he is now. He speeds along Thomas' gravel roads on his bike. At 27 years old, he already has three daughters. He works on the land to feed his wife and children.

Dorothy: I can fetch wood for the fire

Dorothy is 24 years old, although she looks 16. This thin and pretty woman is married and has an 18-month child. She lives in Massanjala, a village in the Chiradzulu district. To get to her modest hut from the road, you have to follow a red mud path through yellowing grass. The neighbours, busy in front of their homes, smile and greet her warmly. It's been eight weeks since Dorothy first started her ARV treatment, but she is still coughing a lot. It was tuberculosis that first took her to Chiradzulu hospital, where she was tested for HIV.

Fred: "It's better than dying."

Fred is 42 years old. He is a small man, very courteous and gentle. A week ago, he was not well. He suffered from headaches and a stiff neck. Suspected of having meningitis, he underwent a lumbar puncture which kept him in hospital. Today, he is better, smiling and seems to have more energy. His two sons are next to him. The eldest is his father's 'guardian'. Fred explains how he found out he was HIV-positive and the effect of his triple therapy.