Dwindling Funds for Antiretroviral HIV Treatment in DRC

     A crisis is brewing in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where out of the 350,000 HIV-positive people who could potentially benefit from antiretroviral treatment, only 44,000 are receiving treatment.  This dangerously-low cover rate (such low percentage is currently seen only in Sudan and Somalia) combined with the high occurrence of mother-to-child HIV transmission, and the difficulty of access to medical treatment paints a very grim future for DRC. 

Despite this reality, however, the six year World Bank funding period ended in 2011 and the Global Fund aid is dwindling (funds are currently on round eight, and it has been reported that they will not be continued onto round nine and ten).   The director of an NGO in Kinshasa reports that since the funds for treatment have been cut, people are no longer coming in to get tested, since as many as 15,000 HIV-positive individuals are already unable to get treated. 

According to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), without the aid of donors and other humanitarian organizations, even a sustenance of the Global Fund aid will not be enough to provide all of those in need with treatment.  MSF is currently urging donors and existing partners to establish the issue in DRC as a priority –

 “With funding from the Global Fund, only 15 percent of people have access to ARVs, so we need others to contribute and we need the existing partners – UNITAID and PEPFAR – to honour their commitments to the people they are already supporting and to expand their programmes.”

In considering this issue, an important question arises – if so many people are still in need of treatment, why are funds being withdrawn?  Third world countries and countries of the developing world have the highest mortality rate for treatable diseases such as HIV, Malaria, Tuberculosis, Lower respiratory infections, and diarrhea; as providing funding for a limited period of time will not eradicate this issue, should more resources be allocated to provide disease epicenters with continuous treatment, indefinitely?

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1 comment
  1. Yes, and here’s another question: why are antiretroviral medications so expensive that it is only through heavy funding from outside agencies that they can be made available in the DRC? Are there grounds for expecting that, in a place with hundreds of thousands of HIV-infected people, antiretrovirals would be seen as the equivalent of clean water? That is, if HIV infection is so common, are HIV medications part of basic lifegiving substances to which everyone should have access?

    But if so, who will reimburse the manufacturers for the cost of making the drugs?

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