HIV/AIDS was considered a high-profile emergency a decade ago, when MSF helped to establish some of the first AIDS programs in Africa. In many quarters, complacency has set in. But in the developing world, HIV/AIDS is an increasingly threatening emergency. As our lead story in this issue of Alert shows, shortages of appropriate drugs and diagnostics are now joined by new challenges. Funds for programs have dried up under the impact of a global recession, even though much-needed newer drugs are priced beyond the reach of most people.
Some of MSF’s HIV and AIDS patients are beginning to build resistance and fail on treatments, and clinicians have few, if any, options to offer them. The result could amount to a death sentence for many people in the countries where MSF works. If these patients lived in North America, they could expect to live decades longer given the diversity of drug regimens available. Little recognition of this emergency in the international community makes it even more important that MSF continue to be able to treat patients who we told years ago: “Take these drugs. They’ll save your life.”
There are many high-profile emergencies in the media right now, but the health care situation in Somalia is not one of them. Nearly two decades of conflict and violence have wrecked the national health system, driven out many of the country’s health workers, and displaced more than one million people. MSF is one of the few international organizations working to fill the health services vacuum, despite the enormous security-related challenges this involves.
In this issue of Alert, you will learn about a hospital in the southern town of Jamaame, where dedicated Somali MSF staff run the day-to-day operations and a small number of international medical personnel based in Nairobi venture in as the security situation allows.
One new way you can help MSF continue to respond to these and other emergencies is by participating in an interactive campaign called “Be There First”. Read more on the back cover about this opportunity to support MSF while getting an inside look at the challenges facing those on the front line of an emergency response.
Executive Director, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)