August 1, 2013
AIDS-related deaths fell by 38% in east and southern Africa between 2005 and 2011, says the UN. From VOA:
The United Nations’ AIDS agency is hailing what officials describe as significant progress in the fight against the epidemic in eastern and southern Africa. The report says AIDS-related deaths have declined dramatically and that the number of new infections has decreased – a direct result of more available treatment. But, they warned, challenges remain.
The cause, they said was simple: The number of people receiving anti-retroviral treatment has increased tenfold, from 625,000 in 2005 to 6.3 million in 2012.
But this disease, said Ethiopia’s health minister, is not about numbers. Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu said he is still haunted by some of the patients he met when he was in practice a decade ago. At the time, he said, Ethiopian hospitals were full of suffering AIDS patients. The disease was taboo, he said, and the media portrayed it “as a horror.”
He was one of the first doctors to begin treating AIDS patients in Ethiopia. At the time, treatment was expensive and complicated.
“When we started the program, over a period of one year we only managed to put 5,000 patients on ART,” he said. “They had to provide some kind of proof that they will continue to receive the treatment and pay for it. I still remember vividly a mother of six who came to my clinic to seek treatment. She was jobless, her husband died of HIV, and two of her daughters were working for the government. And she had to bring her two daughters to, you know, assure us that they will pay for her treatment.”
Dr. Kesetebirhan did not say what happened to the patient. But he said that his government is trying to make her story a rarity by implementing aggressive health-care measures, including a veritable army of specially trained health workers and free access to AIDS drugs.
It appears to have worked: Ethiopia is among seven African nations where the number of AIDS-related deaths has fallen more than 50 percent since 2005. It is also one of seven countries where the rate of new infections has halved.
The country with the world’s heaviest AIDS burden, South Africa, has also made gains. UNAIDS estimates that some 5.6 million South Africans are infected with HIV.