Recent reports released by UNAIDS has confirmed the fact that Nevirapine treatment is still beyond the reach for 90% of HIV infected pregnant women. [Elizabeth Glacier Pediatric AIDS Foundation]
It goes without saying that the commitment and active participation of the government are vital in containing the rapid outbreak of the disease. Political, religious and infrastructural predicaments have been the main reasons for the uncontrolled spread of AIDS in Africa. Religious inhibitions have also restrained some governments from undertaking a transparent approach in discussing sexual hygiene and implementing sex education at school level. However the success stories of Uganda and Senegal, two African countries, where the government undertook educational initiatives (behavioral modification) and actively promoted safe sex methods, serve to show the importance of a transparent, direct and timely intervention. In Uganda the HIV infection rates among pregnant women has dropped from 21.1% in 1991 to 6.1% in 2000. The ABC (Abstain, Be faithful, Condoms) approach promoted by the government proved to be very effective in containing HIV. [the Alan Guttmacher Institute]
The Role of NGO's
In the fight against a disease of such large scale it is imperative that a well-planned, cooperative strategy is evolved. Already many NGO's such as WHO, UNICEF, UNAIDS and other private agencies such as 'Bill Gates foundation' and 'Bristol-Meyers Squibb' are actively participating in promoting AIDS awareness education as a preventive measure, as well as funding for implementing anti-retroviral treatment measures for HIV infected people. Pharmaceutical companies have also started to participate more effectively in the effort to make the drugs accessible to every affected person. Behringer Ingelheim, the company that manufactures Nevirapine is supplying the drug free of cost while other companies like Glaxo have also reduced their cost. However there are still infrastructural impediments and "high level of administrative burdens," which hamper the effective reach out of the treatment programs, implying the need for a more methodical and penetrative strategy. [CBFC] This can only be achieved when there is a cooperative effort from the pharmaceutical companies, government, NGO's and other agencies that are working in the fight against AIDS.
The poor economic situation and the political instability in the African nations have made medical treatment unaffordable and unreachable for the majority of its HIV infected population. Poor management of the disease has left AIDS assume epidemic proportions. Preventive measures are more cost effective and hence constitute the main line defense in the fight against AIDS, particularly when there is a very high ratio of vertical transmission of the disease. The alarming fact is that even the cheap and effective retroviral programs are still unavailable or unaffordable to millions of HIV infected in Africans. A combined initiative for implementing training programs for medical and paramedical staff, improving access to medical treatment, and creating AIDS awareness and prevention programs is essential for effective handling of the prevailing crisis. The first priority would be to change drug licensing and customs policies and make antiretroviral therapy affordable to every HIV infected person in the continent. The enormous scale of the problem necessitates an active and cooperative participation of the healthcare sector, the government and Non-governmental organizations.
The World Bank Group, "AIDS Regional Update: Africa," Accessed on March 18th 2005, http://www.worldbank.org/afr/aids/overview.htm
UNAIDS, "AIDS Epidemic Update," Accessed on March 18th 2005, http://www.unaids.org/wad2004/EPIupdate2004_html_en/Epi04_03_en.htm#P28_3962
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, "Mother to Child Transmission," Accessed on March 19th 2005, http://www.gatesfoundation.org/GlobalHealth/HIVAIDSTB/HIVAIDS/AfricaMission/MTC/default.htm
AIDS Action, "Mother to Child HIV Transmission in Africa," Accessed on March 19th 2005, http://www.aidsaction.org/legislation/pdf/mom2child.pdf
Elizabeth Glacier Pediatric AIDS Foundation, "EXPANDING ACCESS of PREGNANT WOMEN in the DEVELOPING WORLD to a WIDER RANGE of EFFECTIVE METHODS of PREVENTING INFANT HIV INFECTION," Accessed on March 19th 2005, http://www.pedaids.org/fs_latest_news_nevirapine_croi_2.23.htm
The Alan Guttmacher Institute, "Beyond Slogans: Lessons From Uganda's ABC Experience," Accessed on March 20th 2005, http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/ib2004no2.html
Barry D. Schoub, "AIDS and HIV in Perspective" a Guide to Understanding the Virus and Its Consequences," Cambridge University Press, Second Edition, 1999
CBFC, "Uganda, Botswana Only African Countries Participating in Boehringer Ingelheim Free Antiretroviral Drug Program," Accessed on March 19th 2005, http://www.cbcfhealth.org/content/contentID/2047