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DR Congo News: Thousands of AIDS victims face death

Doctors Without Borders says thousands of Congolese don't have access to life-saving drugs.

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A woman lies dying of AIDS at a hospital run in conjunction with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) March 11, 2006 in Rutchuru, D.R. Congo. The organization, also known as Doctors Without Borders, says hundreds of thousands of patients have no access to life-saving drugs and 15,000 are likely to die within the next three years. (Spencer Platt/AFP/Getty Images)

Thousands of Congolese AIDs victims are likely to die within the next three years without treatments unavailable to the vast majority of HIV patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Only 15 percent of the hundreds of thousands of AIDS patients in Congo have access to life-saving antiretroviral drugs, said the organization In a report released Wednesday. Congo Medical Coordinator Anja De Weggheleire said 15,000 patients are on waiting lists for the medication and are at immediate risk.

“As horrifying as that number is, it represents only the tip of the iceberg when you realize that most people living with HIV/AIDS in DRC do not know their HIV status. Many will die in silence and neglect," said De Weggheleire in a statement.

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Congo is one of the worst countries in the world to contract the virus, along with Somalia and Sudan. Doctors Without Borders says about 1 percent of pregnant women with AIDS have access to treatments that could prevent the transmission of the disease to their child.

Bloomberg News reports that 28,000 people with HIV in Congo, who were expected to begin AIDS treatment before 2014, will not be able to because of turmoil in the world’s economy. Bloomberg News reports:

“Europe’s debt crisis has brought down governments, roiled markets and triggered austerity measures affecting millions. Now it may kill.”

Many countries have reduced their annual donations to the World Health Organization, or failed to pay out promised sums, Bloomberg News reports.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said it will offer no new grants for the next two years because of the decline in funding. Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University in Washington told Bloomberg News the situation for AIDS patients in Africa is not likely to improve soon:

“The financing is only going to get worse," Gostin said. "You’ve got donor states in financial crisis and there is increased competition for funds.”

This could be catastrophic for AIDS patients in Congo, according to Doctors Without Borders. In a country where most of the people live on less than $1 a day, Congolese AIDS patients frequently arrive at hospitals with “serious complications resulting from lack of treatment,” the organization said in a statement.

“The conditions surrounding access to care for people living with HIV/AIDS in DRC are horrific,” reads the statement. “Their advanced illness creates unacceptable suffering.”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120125/dr-congo-news-thousands-aids-victims-face-death