The DREAM programme in 10 African countries is aimed at consolidating health systems on the continent and countering the spread of HIV and the Covid-19 pandemic
Save Africa’s future by fighting inequality: this is the challenge of Sant’Egidio’s DREAM programme on World AIDS Day. As we are entering the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, today is a reminder that we are now in the fifth decade of the AIDS pandemic, a disease that still threatens the world.
It is estimated that 79.3 million people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic and 36.3 people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic (source UNAIDS). According to WHO, two-thirds of HIV-positive people (25.7 million) live in Africa, 80% of whom, aged between 15 and 19, are women aged between 15 and 19.
Since its beginning in 2002 DREAM – present in 10 African countries – has been close to African women who represent the fulcrum of the family and of African society as a whole. They have been essential in spreading a new culture of healthcare. Dream’s 50 clinical centres offer free access to excellent diagnostics and treatment. More than 500,000 people have been treated by the programme and, to date, 120,000 free of HIV children were born to HIV mothers.
Since its very beginning, DREAM has helped local health systems to develop a long-term sustainable model, ensuring maximum results at a minimum cost. Besides distributing medicines free of charge, Dream has been training local staff, offering patients counselling, prevention and testing services.
Awareness-raising and prevention activities on health and care issues are essential, especially for adolescents.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 DREAM Programme has been engaged in the fight against COVID-19, providing masks, sanitation products and screening through molecular tests.
In Malawi, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, vaccinations against Covid-19 started a few months ago, giving priority to AIDS patients, who are at greater risk of Covid-19 infection.
“In these days – explains Paola Germano, director of DREAM – the world is facing the arrival of a new variant of the Sars-Cov2 virus, Omicron. The reaction of the North of the world has so far been to isolate Africa and stop the variant from spreading. Yet there is still no awareness that we can only succeed in getting out of this pandemic together. The virus ignores walls and will remain a global threat until vaccines are available for everyone. While we are already on our third dose of vaccine, millions of people in Africa have not yet received their first. I hope this inequality will be redressed as soon as possible and the international community will mobilise to send the necessary vaccines to the poorest populations.”
On the occasion of the World AIDS Day, DREAM launches an appeal for the diffusion of vaccines not only for a problem of equity and justice but also because saving Africa means saving everyone.