The fourth anniversary falls right about now – it was on the 28th February 2002, to be precise, that the first DREAM centre for antiretroviral therapy in Africa, the Machava centre, opened in Maputo, Mozambique.
DREAM, then, completes its fourth year: four years of realising and tending a dream, four years of top quality medical care, freely accessible and cost-free to many in Africa. They have been four years of work and commitment to extending the right to health to that most neglected of continents, to ensuring that drugs that have saved many lives in the West be put at the disposal of Africans, too.
To the Community of Sant’Egidio, this right to therapy appeared to be a human right violated, disregarded, often without so much as the violation being noted as such at the level of our consciences. Nonetheless, the Community felt itself duty-bound by the silent appeal arising from the sick of many African countries: from adult men and women, from young people, from a multitude of children.
Here it was, then, this task of planting a tiny seed in Mozambique, at Machava, on that 28th February 2002: the seed of treating people affected by AIDS on African soil, a seed to prevent the vertical spread of HIV, to secure the continent’s future.
That seed has borne many fruits. DREAM has grown. To the first Mozambican centre at Machava, many others have been added. Matola and the Polana Canico, in 2002. Beira, in the centre of the country, and three more Mozambican facilities in 2003. Nampula and Quelimane, in the same country, in 2004; and then Iringa, also in that year, the first DREAM centre outside Mozambique, in Tanzania. And then in 2005, also in Tanzania, Arusha and Usokami; but also, in the same year, the reaching out of our DREAM to many other countries: to Malawi, with the centre of Lilongwe; to Guinea Bissau, with the centre opened in the capital; to Kenya, with the centre of Tharaka. Bringing us, now in 2006, to the forthcoming opening of the DREAM centres of Conakry, in Guinea, of Blantyre, in Malawi, and of Abuja, in Nigeria, and to the joint venture with centres run by religious congregations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Angola.
The figures for these few, but packed years, tell the story. The various DREAM centres have tested over 22,000 persons. Their laboratories have processed more than 80,000 blood samples, including tests for viral load and CD4 count. Our doctors have performed more than 115,000 visits. More than 11,000 patients are receiving treatment at present, of whom over 5,000 are on anti-retrovirals, a fifth of them children. There have been 2,200 expecting mothers whose pregnancies have been accompanied by treatment to prevent vertical transmission: more than 1,500 babies born disease-free. 13 training courses for the staff of the centres: 12 in Mozambique and one in Tanzania, have contributed to improving the level of professionalism of many African men and women, participants in the dream of opening this continent to a future that is free from AIDS.
That 28th February four years ago, when all this began, we commemorated on Friday 3rd March, in Machava itself, with a