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AIDS Treatment in Peru
September 15, 2004
In August, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) launched an HIV/AIDS treatment project in Villa El Salvador, a poor suburb of Lima with a population of 350,000. The project will offer comprehensive care to 300 people and aims at providing an alternative model for fighting AIDS in Peru. Though the prevalence of HIV is relatively low in the country-0.3 percent according to official figures-it is sharply concentrated in the capital city. The start of the MSF project coincides with the launch of the ministry of health's national AIDS treatment program. But the poorest patients still face obstacles to access the treatment.
"Everything points to an explosive situation," says Cedric Martin, MSF head of mission in Peru. "AIDS is likely to become a big problem over the next ten years. By piloting a model for simplified and decentralized treatment, MSF can assure free access to treatment for the poorest and alleviate the load the health authorities have to deal with."
In addition to comprehensive treatment, which includes treatment of opportunistic infections, MSF is developing a number of complementary activities. There is the option of home-based care for those who cannot visit the clinic. The patients receive not only medical, but also social and psychological support. They can get free and rapid testing close to their homes and MSF is developing tools for informing patients and their caretakers of what is needed for successful AIDS care and treatment-a difficult task given the high illiteracy rate in Villa El Salvador.
MSF will work closely with the ministry of health in the Centro Materno Infantil San José.
Months of preparation and negotiation preceded the project's launch. "It was a very emotional occasion," says MSF volunteer John MacRae, MD. "For years we have seen our patients die around us. Of the group of two years ago, almost nobody is left. Now, finally, we can give them hope that they can continue their lives in relative health."
As Cedric Martin explains, "MSF will use simplified drug regimens that make it easier for patients to adhere to their treatment stick and to provide free care for opportunistic infections. We will implement much simpler, and cheaper, methods for testing and analysis. Through our decentralized approach we will be better able to follow how patients are doing, not only medically but also socially, and trace defaulters. And we will continue our fight for reducing the price of HIV-related medicines and making inexpensive medications available in Peru."