Africa, Development & Aid, Headlines, Health, Poverty & SDGs

HEALTH-BURKINA FASO: More Money Needed to Guarantee the Availability of ARVs

OUAGADOUGOU , Feb 14 2012 (IPS) - Burkina Faso’s Network for Access to Essential Medicines (RAME) has called on the Burkinabè government to increase the budget allocation to the health sector to avoid interruptions to AIDS treatment.

Despite an emergency plan announced in January, which will see the government spend around one billion CFA francs – two million dollars – to procure AIDS drugs in this West African country, patients and civil society groups are demanding permanent measures to ensure the availability of anti- retrovirals and reagents.

According to RAME’s coordinator, Simon Kaboré, there has been an interruption in the supply of drugs and reagents – chemicals needed for routine testing – which has hampered the fight against opportunistic infections. Furthermore, many AIDS associations are no longer putting new people on ARVs due to limited stock.

“It was good to see the government recognise its responsiblity vis-à-vis these illnesses and release a billion francs,” Kaboré told IPS, “but it’s not enough given the need to continue to put new people into treatment regimes as well as maintain care for older patients.”

Kaboré’s network, based in the Burkinabè capital, Ouagadougou, is a member of a monitoring committee for ARVs and other supplies linked to the the treatment of AIDS; he says around 27 million dollars will be needed this year, but the amount raised from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other partners is only around 13 million.

“We need the government to do more,” Kaboré said, underlining that government aid has come very late because for several months, many people living with AIDS could not get their regular monitoring at health centres. “Many have even lost their lives because they could not get ARVs.”

“Arrangements have been made so that we don’t remain in this situation,” says André Joseph Tiendrébéogo, permanent secretary of the government’s National Council for the Fight Against AIDS and Sexually Transmissible Infections. “We’re thinking about how to provide more than the billion francs.”

According to Tiendrébéogo, if nothing has been done by Mar. 31, there will be a disruption not only to the registration of newly-infected people, but in care for those who are already in treatment. He explained that a delay in negotiations over Burkina’s application for the 10th cycle of the Global Fund is at the root of the interruption of financing for ARVs. The Fund contributes 75 percent of the cost of care for AIDS patients in Burkina Faso, he told IPS.

Martine Somda, from REVS+, an association of people living with AIDS, told IPS that for several months, 60 people who needed to receive ARVs could not due to insufficient quantities of drugs.

“We stopped new enrolments at the end of 2010, and we have lost a dozen patients because most of those ill who received care for free are in the informal sector and cannot take over the payments,” said Somda, whose association – based in the western town of Bobo-Dioulasso – includes around 1,000 HIV+ people in treatment.

Somda is even more alarmed by another problem. “The drugs have arrived, but it’s necessary to rebuild stocks or we will have a shortage of reagents. It’s not a reassuring situation.”

The average cost of tests is around 34 dollars for a CD4 and transaminase count, she says.

“A sovereign country cannot rely on external resources. We need concrete action because we know that one day, people will be fed up,” says Mamadou Sawadogo, coordinator of the Network of People Living With HIV and AIDS in Burkina.

In 2007, Sawadogo’s network, which unites 84 associations working on AIDS, raised around 70,000 dollars by means of a “Sidathon”, a campaign to raise funds for AIDS care; this year they will organise another.

According to a 2000 report by the macroeconomic commission of the World Health Organisation, the cost per person of AIDS treatment is 34 dollars, which which would require the government to allocate 21 percent of the budget to the sector for optimal health, rather than the present 15.6 percent, Kaboré told IPS.

“We need an innovative system for finance, such as the one they have in France with Unitaid, by means of a small tax on airline tickets, or in Guinea which does the same, or even like Mali and Ghana which have just decided to put in place a fund to support the struggle against AIDS,” he says. “Because the number of people on ARV treatment continues to grow.”

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