The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced today that it has started antiretroviral treatment programs for HIV-infected people in Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda. These are the first US government-funded programs to provide comprehensive antiretroviral treatment for people living with HIV and AIDS.
“These antiretroviral treatment sites are an important first step in providing comprehensive care to people who need it most,” said Dr Paul De Lay, USAID’s senior HIV/AIDS advisor. De Lay explained that these programs are not designed to test the ability of resource-poor settings to deliver medications. “We already know that drug delivery can work in resource-poor settings,” said De Lay. “We can look at the examples provided by Haiti, Brazil, Uganda and Botswana.”
Today’s announcement marks an expansion of the US government’s care and treatment programs to include life-saving antiretroviral drug therapies in developing countries. USAID plans the following efforts:
Ghana: In Ghana, the “Start” program will provide antiretroviral treatment in two districts in the Eastern Region of Ghana, where an estimated 18,000 people out of a population of 240,000 are HIV positive.
Kenya: USAID will start antiretroviral treatment in Mombasa, Kenya, at the Coast Provincial General Hospital, and at two primary health care centres that have ongoing voluntary HIV counselling and testing services. US$1 million will be invested for antiretroviral treatment; this is in addition to the $20 million the U.S. provides in assistance to Kenya per year.
Rwanda: Rwanda, with its estimated 11% HIV infection rate in the general population, will receive antiretroviral treatment for infected persons through existing HIV counselling and testing services run by Family Health International.
In some countries the government will be responsible for the purchase of the medication, while in others USAID will be responsible for the purchase. USAID is currently negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies for proprietary medication (non-generic).
“In Ghana, we are committed to purchasing the highest quality medications at the lowest possible prices,” said Dr Kweka Yeboah, program manager at the National AIDS Control Program of Ghana.
Ruben Sahabo, of the Centre for Treatment and Research on AIDS of the Ministry of Health of Rwanda, agreed. “Rwanda has a centralised purchasing system to ensure high quality medication and low prices for treating those infected with HIV. However, Rwanda has not yet decided whether to purchase generic medication or not,” he said.
AIDS 2002 Conference News produced by Health & Development Networks/Key Correspondent Team