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MSF in Cameroon, 2001
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New Mission Provides Antiretroviral Treatment
In January 2001, the first AIDS patient received antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in the new MSF mission in Cameroon. Although limited ARV treatment was already available, at a cost of US$3,000-$4,000 per year it was out of the reach of most people.
In establishing a direct AIDS treatment project in Cameroon, MSF goals were two-fold: offer some of Cameroon's nearly 600,000 AIDS patients life-prolonging treatment, and demonstrate that antiretroviral treatment could be effectively implemented in a developing country. ARV treatment is offered for a nominal fee at a clinic in Yaoundé, the capital. It has been administered to five new patients per month since January, with hopes that the number could be increased to ten in the future, and that 85 patients would be under treatment by the end of 2001. Psychological support and treatment of opportunistic infections are key parts of the project. Starting in spring 2001, MSF extended the AIDS project to two clinics in the city of Douala. Here the focus is on encouraging voluntary counseling and testing and providing medical and psychological follow-up to HIV-positive people.
As MSF was setting set up its antiretroviral program, Cameroon was hit with a severe outbreak of meningitis. MSF responded with a massive vaccination campaign carried out in cooperation with the authorities.
The immunization program began in February. Starting in the Wum and Wbengwi districts, where the epidemic began in early 2001, MSF trained local workers and began administering vaccines, ultimately achieving a vaccination rate of over 75% for both districts. In two months, MSF vaccinated a total of 190,000 people.
MSF has been working in Cameroon since 2000.