, PARIS, France, Apr 21 – Five million AIDS sufferers in central and western Africa have no access to treatment, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Wednesday, warning of a major treatment gap in the global fight against the disease.
In a new report entitled “Out of Focus”, the medical charity said fewer than 24 percent of sufferers have access to anti-retroviral drugs in the two regions, where 2.3 percent of people have the disease.
Though well below Swaziland’s 27.7 percent and South Africa’s 18.9 percent infection rates, central and western Africa are still significantly above the world average of 0.8 percent.
Around 21 percent of people who contract the virus every year and around half of children born with the disease live in western and central Africa, the charity said.
And a quarter of global AIDS-related deaths occur the two regions, it added.
“Needs remain enormous in central and western Africa where three in four (sufferers) do not have access to anti-AIDS treatments — that is, five million people,” MSF medical coordinator Dr Eric Goemaere said in a statement.
Outlining obstacles to treating the disease, it pointed to limited access to medicine, high costs for the available treatments, problems with testing as well as the stigmatisation of sufferers.
The slow distribution of drugs, poor quality medicines and low standards of drug storage were also identified as problems.
Similar obstacles also contributed to the 11,300 deaths caused by the Ebola virus that ravaged the region from late 2013.
Most Ebola deaths occurred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“The global goal of dealing with HIV/AIDS by 2020 will not be met unless priority is given to the fight against the disease in western and central Africa, where the population living with HIV continues to suffer unnecessarily and die in silence,” MSF said.