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There are more than 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) began treating people living with HIV in the 1990s and started antiretroviral treatment programs in Cameroon, Thailand, and South Africa in 2000. MSF now operates HIV/AIDS programs in 32 countries and provides ARV treatment to more than 100,000 HIV-positive patients—including 7,000 children.
Children living with HIV/AIDS is one of the biggest tragedies and challenges in the fight to control the disease. In 2006, WHO estimates that 2.5 million children under 15 years old were living with HIV/AIDS, with 1,200 becoming infected every day. Without treatment, half of all infants with HIV will die before their second birthday.
Tuberculosis (TB) is responsible for the most deaths of people living with HIV/AIDS. With compromised immune systems, HIV-infected people are 50 times more likely to contract the opportunistic disease and to develop active TB. Right now, one-third of HIV-positive people around the world are co-infected with TB, according to WHO.
Health-Care Worker Shortage in Southern Africa
In May 2007, MSF released a study on the impact of the lack of health workers on providing HIV/AIDS treatment in southern Africa, the heart of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The information was gathered from MSF HIV/AIDS-treatment programs in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa. The findings are clear: an increasing number of patients dependent on a decreasing amount of health workers leaves many without care and without hope.
High percentages of people with advanced AIDS, especially in parts of Asia, are developing cytomegalovirus (CMV), a disease that causes irreversible blindness, or death. Valganciclovir, a highly effective treatment, exists, but patients in poorer countries are locked out of treatment by outrageously high prices.