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Agence France-Presse
Doctors Without Borders slams lack of AIDS care in DR Congo

January 26, 2012

KINSHASA, Jan 26, 2012 (AFP) - Eighty-five percent of HIV-positive people
in Democratic Republic of Congo have no access to AIDS treatment, while
international funding has been cut, according to Doctors Without Borders.

The Belgian wing of Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF-B) said in a statement
released Wednesday that "the conditions of access to care of people living
with HIV/AIDS are catastrophic."

The medical charity was launching a campaign called "HIV/AIDS in DR Congo:
the ignored emergency," and it highlighted the 85 percent of HIV-positive
people in the vast country with no access to the antiretroviral (ARV) care
that enables them to live longer.

Out of almost 68 million Congolese, "more than a million people are
HIV-positive and the number of patients who should have benefited from ARV
treatment in 2011 is estimated at 350,000," the statement said.

"However, only 44,000 patients are actually undergoing treatment, which
represents a total ARV coverage of 14 percent," compared with 49 percent for
sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, MSF-B said.

"Only one percent of HIV-positive pregnant women" receive the medication
intended to prevent the transmission of the virus to their baby, the European
non-governmental organisation said.

For people undergoing treatment, the official "pledge of free care is not
respected", Anja de Weggheleire, an MSF-B medical coordinator, told a Kinshasa
press conference.

Consultations, cases of hospitalisation and laboratory exams are all
charged to the patient and his family, who can rarely pay in a country where
two-thirds of the population lives on $1.25 (almost one euro) per day.

The situation is likely to worsen because the main international donors are
cutting their assistance, including The Global Fund to Fight AIDS,
Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has provided 75 percent of the finance to
tackle AIDS in the DR Congo.

MSF-B in November last year criticised the "suppression of funding by the
Global Fund for 2011," which it said was a first in 10 years. Developed
nations responded by blaming the international financial crisis.

Without "emergency" funds as of early in 1012, "we will have no money via
the Global Fund until 2014," warned Thierry Dethier, an analyst and spokesman
for MSF-B.

The medical charity has also urged the Congolese government swiftly to make
available the seven percent of its health budget devoted to fighting AIDS.