Johannesburg, 19 July 2012 – New United Nations data about gains made in the fight against HIV/AIDS is sparking optimism ahead of the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington. But countries most affected by the pandemic still struggle to place enough people on treatment and to implement the best science and strategies to fight the disease, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned today.
As leaders and scientists prepare to discuss the latest initiatives needed to scale up treatment to such a high level it could potentially end the epidemic, seven million people still require urgent access to antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. While the United Nations AIDS agency (UNAIDS) estimates that 1.4 million more people were put on antiretroviral therapy in 2011, this pace will have to double to reach the global goal of 15 million people receiving treatment by 2015. At the same time, international discourse is increasingly urging Africans to find their own domestic solutions to the HIV emergency.
African states cannot combat HIV alone
“It would be outrageous to assume that African states could combat this emergency alone, given their current limited resources,” said Dr Eric Goemaere, MSF’s HIV/AIDS senior regional advisor for southern Africa. “This is just a cynical excuse for donors to scale back on their earlier commitments of putting an end to this disease. It will have catastrophic consequences for patients.”
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), less than 15 per cent of patients who need ARV therapy receive it, 11 per cent of health facilities offer treatment, and less than 6 per cent of HIV-positive mothers have access to ARV drugs to prevent their children from becoming infected.
“We receive critically ill patients who have desperately searched for ARV treatment,” said Thierry Dethier, MSF’s advocacy manager in DRC. “For too many, their disease has progressed so far that they are literally dying on our doorstep.”
International support stagnates
Several governments have taken important and courageous steps to address the HIV pandemic. Zimbabwe and Malawi have made major progress in broadening treatment programs in recent years.
Yet, plans for scaling up treatment and improving quality of care risk being scrapped entirely as international support stagnates, with donors turning a blind eye to their earlier commitments. Important institutions in fighting the pandemic like the Global Fund are facing major funding shortfalls due to waning donor interest.