By DANN OKOTH
Governments are making improvements to get better antiretroviral treatment (ART) to more people, a study released on Thursday at the International Aids Conference in Washington DC says.
And the conference concluded with a strong message that the tide against Aids can be turned.
The study ‘Speed up scale-up’ presenting policy dashboard and report closer to home’ released by Doctors Without Borders or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) maps progress across 23 countries on HIV treatment strategies, tools, and policies needed to increase treatment scale-up.
“The results show that governments have made improvements to get better antiretroviral treatment (ART) to more people, but implementation of innovative community-based strategies is lagging in some countries,” notes the study, done in collaboration with UNAids.
The study looked at 25 indicators in each country, ranging from coverage of ART and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), to whether nurses, instead of doctors, can start patients on HIV and TB treatment – critical to relieving the burden on health systems and to getting treatment further into communities – and how many health facilities in each country offer ART.
“What we’re seeing is that governments are working to get better HIV medicines to their people, and to provide treatment closer to home so that more people can benefit,” said Sharonann Lynch, HIV Policy Advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign, who headed the research.
“But there’s still a long way to go. More countries need to shift policies to allow nurses to start people on treatment, and other health workers to monitor patients’ treatment so treatment can be available in every clinic, in every village, and in every country struggling with HIV.”
The study found that 11 of 23 countries have reached ART coverage of 60 per cent or more, while six are still reaching only one third of people in need.
Six countries have PMTCT coverage rates over 80 per cent while eight are still below 50 per cent, with five of these below 30 per cent. Only eight of the 20 countries for which data was available provide ART in 30 per cent or more of their health facilities, while in countries like Lesotho, Malawi and South Africa where over 60 per cent of health facilities offer ART, treatment coverage is greater, at more than 50 per cent. Of the 18 sub-Saharan African countries in the study, 11 allow nurses to start patients on ART, with Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe having changed their policies just in the last two years to allow this.
Mozambique is the country with the highest HIV prevalence of the countries in the study to still not allow basic nurses to initiate and manage ART.