Accessing Quality HIV Treatment in Developing Countries

Many HIV/AIDS patients in developing countries cannot access quality healthcare. To be precise, as much as two thirds of these patients do not receive ARVs while the remaining one third stop taking medication after just two years. The main challenge facing these patients and low to middle-income countries is lack of financial resources to buy ARVs, train health workers, and build more medical facilities. Read on to learn how initiatives and programs such as CHAI are making it easy for HIV patients to access affordable treatment.

Medications for Children

It is easy for policy makers and donors to target adults living with HIV/AIDS and forget young children and infants. According to CHAI, only one in 40 children had access to medication when the program began in 2005. In comparison, one in every eight adult with HIV/AIDS had access to HIV/AIDS treatment programs. The high cost of ARVs, lack of infant testing, and dosing difficulties further compounded the problem. In order to address this problem, CHAI negotiated with pharmaceuticals that manufacture HIV drugs to lower prices. This is in addition to bringing together more than 30 low and middle-income countries to buy drugs together. As a result, the price of HIV drugs dropped by up to 90% from a high of $600 to $60.

Testing for Infants and Children

Testing of infants and children is another problem that hobbled efforts to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS. In fact, there were less than 200 sites in 2005 equipped to test infants and children across countries where CHAI had a presence. To improve remedy this situation, CHAI worked with governments and to set up health facilities that could carry out pediatric testing. The fruits of this effort were 4,600 testing sites spread across 34 developing nations by 2009.

Quality Pediatric Care

Having the drugs and testing facilities is the easy part. The hard part is delivering quality healthcare to children and infants living with HIV/AIDS. One hurdle that made it hard for children to access treatment was the lack of communication between testing centers and treatment facilities. To improve the communication channels, CHAI set data management systems that cut down delays in delivering test results to healthcare clinics by 50%.

Continuous Effort

These successes do not mean that concerned parties can rest on their laurels. It is necessary for all concerned parties to build on past successes. For example, CHAI is working with researchers and medical experts to make HIV testing easier and accessible. This is in addition to ensuring patients access the latest medications such as microbicides. Another approach involves treating HIV positive pregnant women to reduce the risk of maternal-to-child-transmission (MTCT). In countries where CHAI has a presence, this effort has lowered MTCT rates by up to 80%.

The traditional approach of providing treatment to adults while ignoring children and infants is not a good idea. It is wise to provide testing facilities, medications, and build on past successes. The aim of these efforts is to ensure mothers and children who cannot afford expensive medications get quality healthcare.

About the author:

Mike Huntington assists AIDS organizations to set up HIV/AIDS treatment programs poor countries, as well as liaises with drug manufacturers to ensure AIDS patients in such countries get affordable HIV drugs.