Writing in the Guardian:

Daniel is six months old, and one of the more than a million children in Africa born of HIV-positive mothers every year. Without prenatal treatment, up to 30% of these children will contract the virus. Daniel is one of the luckier ones, so far. His mother, Elise, found out she was HIV-positive eight months ago, while she was pregnant with him. She took the necessary antiretrovirals to decrease the risk of transmission. But Elise lives in rural Cameroon, and since she was diagnosed has travelled two hours by car every month to the closest clinic to get the drugs necessary to prevent transmission to her child. The travel is expensive, but she wants her son to be negative, and she wants to be healthy. The type of drugs she takes require consistent usage; if they’re taken intermittently, she can develop resistance, which requires moving on to different (and more limited) treatment options.

When she showed up at the clinic last month, there weren’t any drugs in stock. When she took Daniel in to be tested, she was told she would have to wait a month to find out whether her baby had HIV.

We’ve heard the statistics. A baby born in a developing country is 13 times more likely to die before she reaches the age of five than a baby born in an industrialised country. A woman dies every minute from pregnancy-related causes. Three-quarters of all women with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa shoulders 25% of the world’s disease burden, but represents only about 10% of its population and has 1% of its health workers. Ninety per cent of babies born with HIV are born in sub-Saharan Africa.

You can read the whole thing here.

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2 comments for “HIV/AIDS and UNITAID

  1. Sid
    October 5, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    I might be way off in my recall of HIV/AIDS facts, but I was under the impression that with appropriate dx of HIV/AIDS in mothers, the appropriate application of anti-retrovirals reduces the risk of fetus contracting HIV to like ~1% so it seems the ability to nearly eliminate the virus exists save for culturally-appropriate information diffusion/awareness and implementation/administration of Tx protocols (which is obviously not trivial).

    Also offhand, I thought the clade distributions of the virus present in sub-saharan Africa and India are very different from the ones prevalent in the developed world and that has made funding and development for drugs rather difficult, so I don’t think that patent pools would work for those regions if the patents in the developed world had nominal margins. I think a better might idea might be some UN/WHO-funded initiative which employed first-world national health agencies with a strong research focus (NIH, NHS, etc.) to engage in a collaborative effort, but for all I know this is completely unfeasible.

  2. Jamie
    October 6, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Hey Sid –

    The issue with antiretrovirals in Africa is that they only work when they’re taken with food. Many people are able to get them for free – especially pregnant mothers – but you’re SOL if you can’t get enough to eat.

    I’m writing this from rural Kenya, where I’m working, among other things, with HIV patients. I think it’s unfair to imply that most women here don’t want their kids to be negative because they can’t afford to travel to a clinic. Short of mobile clinics, getting tested – let alone treated – is near impossible, not least of all because of lack of roads in huge chunks of the country. Bear in mind as well, mothers who spend the money to get to clinics are also mothers who leave other children unattended, and don’t pay school fees for those ones either.

    Aids in Africa – or rather Kenya, since I don’t have experience in other countries, although I imagine its similar – does not exist without poverty. Poverty does not exist without corruption and neglect of huge parts of the population. All the drugs in the world won’t fix the problem until there is social structures in place to fix the larger problems involved.

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