Associated Press - January 25, 2012
Kinshasa, Congo (AP) - Some 15,000 AIDS victims in Congo likely will die waiting for
lifesaving drugs in the next three years, Doctors Without Borders
warned Wednesday in a report describing "horrific" health care
About 85 percent of AIDS patients in need of anti-retroviral
medication are not getting any, according to the organization
known by its French acronym, MSF.
Medical coordinator Anja De Weggheleire said the estimate of
15,000 dead in three years is horrifying but represents only the
tip of the iceberg since most victims don't even know they are
"Many will die in silence and neglect," she said.
The doctors blamed Congo's government for giving little priority
to fighting AIDS, and the withdrawal of donors. The leading
supplier of ARV drugs in Congo, the Global Fund, is sharply
reducing funding because countries that finance it have not kept
This pullback by donors "is directly threatening the lives of
thousands of people in (Congo)," the statement added.
It called for Congo's government to meet its commitment to
provide free treatment to people living with HIV and AIDS, and
for donors to immediately mobilize resources "to ensure that
patients waiting for ARV treatment are not condemned to die."
Congo's failure to address the crisis could be creating a
generation of new AIDS patients.
MSF said only 1 percent of pregnant women infected with HIV have
access to the drugs that prevent them passing on the virus to
their babies. As a result, about one-third of exposed babies will
be born with HIV, it said.
An excessively high number of AIDS patients arrive at the
hospital with advanced illnesses and serious complications that
create unacceptable suffering, all easily prevented with early
ARV treatment, the doctors said.
"What I'm seeing in (Congo) has not existed elsewhere for years,"
De Weggheleire said. "The situation here reminds me of the time
before any anti-retroviral treatment was available."
More than 1 million of Congo's 70 million people are estimated to
be infected with the AIDS virus, with 350,000 of them in need of
ARVs. Only 44,000 are receiving treatment, the doctors said,
giving the Central African nation a coverage rate of just 15
percent, equal only to that of Sudan and war-torn Somalia on the
Congo is still recovering from decades of dictatorship and
back-to-back civil wars that ended in 2005. High levels of
corruption have prevented the country's massive mineral wealth
from being translated into better lives for its people.
MSF was the first organization to provide free ARV treatment in
Congo, in 2003, and now treats more than 10 percent of all
patients receiving the drugs in the country, including 20 percent
of those on ARVs in Kinshasa, the capital.