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MSF in Ecuador, 2004
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More than half of Ecuador's inhabitants cannot obtain proper medical care – a problem made more dire by the spread of HIV/AIDS. Approximately 40,000 of the country's people now have the virus, and most of them cannot obtain treatment. The combination of insufficient resources, an inadequate number of qualified staff and limited political will impede the development of comprehensive HIV/AIDS programs throughout the country.
In January 2004, MSF launched a project to improve care for people with HIV/AIDS in Guayas province, an area deeply affected by the virus. Each month, the MSF team seeks to treat 10 new adult patients and 6 children with antiretroviral (ARV) medicines, as well as provide treatment to all HIV-positive pregnant women in the area to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus. The ministry of health has asked MSF to help develop a system to cope with the treatment needs of people living with HIV in Ecuador.
In addition to providing direct patient care, MSF is working proactively at the national level on policy issues related to access to medicines and treatment. For example, MSF is urging the government to use less expensive generic medicines at a time when Ecuador buys brand-name ARVs at a much higher cost. Another main area of concern involves the negotiations on a regional free trade agreement between Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and the United States. MSF is worried that this agreement will have a devastating effect on access to medicines for millions of patients in the Andean region.
MSF also runs a sexual and reproductive health program in a neighbourhood of Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city. The program started in the slum of Flor de Bastion in April 2002 with the objective of making quality sexual and reproductive health care services available to this excluded area's inhabitants, especially teenagers. The MSF staff provide counseling and care related to family planning, prevention of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, and education on sexual and reproductive health.
MSF has worked in Ecuador since 1996.