HomeDREAMAgenzia France-Presse (Francia) – African AIDS programs should focus on expectant mothers, conference hears
11 - Mag - 2004

ROME, May 12 (AFP) – Making HIV-positive pregnant women the focus of HIV/AIDS treatment programs in Africa has proven the most effective way to battle the pandemic on the continent, African health ministers heard Wednesday at a conference here.

The Community of Sant’Egidio, a Roman Catholic organization dedicated to conflict resolution and assistance to the poor, described its pilot program in Mozambique as "the best results obtained up until now in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of treatment" for AIDS/HIV.

The program, called "Dream", has since its inception in Mozambique two years ago offered free access to antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive mothers-to-be to block the transmission of the disease to their babies.

"Since Dream’s launch, 400 healthy children have been born from infected mothers", program coordinator Paola Germano told AFP.

The Dream program also tested some 7,000 people for HIV/AIDS in the southern African country, where an estimated 14 percent of the population of 17 million are HIV-positive.

Of those, 4,000 tested positive, and are now receiving either antiretrovirals or other forms of medical treatment, the organization said.

In sub-Saharan Africa, around 26.6 million people were infected with HIV at the end of 2003, out of an estimated global tally of 40 million, according to UN estimates. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

But only three percent of the 3.9 million AIDS patients in Africa who could benefit from antiretroviral drugs had access to them due largely to prohibitive costs and structural demands.

Sant’Egidio’s Dream program could be "an answer to the tragedy which has wracked the continent", it said.

The program is a model for others now being set up in Malawi, Tanzania and Guinea Bissau, and others in Angola and Guinea are soon to follow, Germano said.

Some 500 people turned out for the Catholic charity’s conference, including the health ministers of 11 African countries, AIDS activists and officials from the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

The ministers were expected Thursday to sign an appeal for more international pressure on drug companies to lower the cost of antiretrovirals, which, though much cheaper in the past few years, remain prohibitive for most people on the world’s poorest continent.


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