Peru: Giving HIV/AIDS care to slum residents

MSF continues to speak out on issues related to access to essential medicines - access that is threatened by current free trade negotiations that would force people to buy more expensive, patented drugs.

In the Lima slum of Villa El Salvador, MSF has begun a pilot community-based AIDS-treatment project. The project, started in August 2004, treats slum residents with AIDS, using life-extending antiretroviral (ARV) medicines at the Centro Materno Infantil San Jose health center. By mid-2005, 91 patients were receiving this treatment.

Providing medical care in the community was a breakthrough, because HIV/AIDS care in Peru had been restricted entirely to large hospitals. Poor people were obligated to travel long distances to receive care, and to pay high prices that effectively excluded many.

MSF continues to speak out on issues related to access to essential medicines - access that is threatened by current free trade negotiations that would force people to buy more expensive, patented drugs. In collaboration with a local nongovernmental organization, MSF has been advocating for the government to increase free access to HIV/AIDS medicines.

Partly as a result of this action, the cost of ARV therapy has started to decline, and less-expensive, non-patented, generic drugs are now available in Peru.

MSF is working in the Lurigancho prison in northeastern Lima - home to 9,000 prisoners. MSF carries out prevention and treatment activities in cooperation with the national penitentiary institute, targeting prisoners living with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV/AIDS. The work includes comprehensive care for HIV-positive prisoners as well as awareness-raising efforts aimed at reducing transmission of infections.

MSF has held workshops for prison staff on voluntary testing and counseling and has trained medical staff to manage symptoms. In 2004, more than 3,700 prisoners entering Lurigancho benefited from briefings on HIV, STIs and tuberculosis.

An estimated 1,600 prisoners received HIV counseling, and more than 1,440 volunteered to be tested for the virus, of whom 50 were found to be positive. MSF plans to hand over the project to local health authorities at the end of 2005.

In December 2004, MSF transferred its project aimed at helping youngsters improve their own lives despite violent experiences in the past to local community groups. The program taught the children how to develop protective mechanisms, healthy relationships and greater resilience.

MSF has worked in Peru since 1985.

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