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Government struggles to reduce HIV/AIDS prevalence

The Central African Republic (CAR) hopes to reduce the HIV/AIDS prevalence in the country from the current 14.8 percent to 5 percent in the next five years, President Ange-Felix Patasse has said.

According to research carried out by the Institut Pasteur - based in the capital, Bangui - and the national anti-HIV/AIDS committee in December 2002, HIV/AIDS prevalence increased from 14 percent to 14.8 percent in 15 months.

"I am very frightened by this figure" Patasse said on Saturday when he laid the foundation stone for the construction of a HIV/AIDS treatment, research and training centre.

"By a relentless struggle, we hope to reduce that prevalence rate to 5 percent in five years and to less than 2 percent in seven years," Patasse said.

"The laying down of the foundation stone for the CTA is a decisive step towards the implementation of the global programme of caring for HIV [positive] people in the CAR," Health Minister Joseph Kalite said during the ceremony.

The government was concerned about the current statistics of HIV prevalence, he added.

The centre under construction is part of the easy-access-to the antiretroviral (ARV) programme launched by Patasse in July 1999. Its construction was delayed due to repeated conflict in the country.

In January, the government bought land worth 30 million CFA francs (US $49,180), which it placed at the disposal of the health ministry and its partners to construct the HIV/AIDS centre. The ministry's partners include Hanuman, a CAR-French anti-HIV/AIDS NGO, the French Red Cross Society and Merck Sharp Dhomes (MSD) Foundation, a pharmaceutical laboratory based in France.

Apart from providing the land, the government also disbursed 120 million CFA francs ($201,300) for the building of the centre's first floor.

The French Red Cross Society would be in charge of providing ARV to the centre and training the centre's staff, Laurent Belec, the chairman and founder of Hanuman told PlusNews on Saturday.

"The therapies that will be chosen will cost 25,000 to 30,000 CFA francs [$42-50] per patient per month," Belec said, adding that there would be four categories of patients, depending on their financial means and their social situation.

The first category will be those who can afford to pay the total cost of the dosage, the second will be those who will be allowed to pay 10,000 to 15,000 francs CFA ($16.7 to $25), the third those who will be allowed to pay 5,000 francs CFA ($8.3) and the last category will be those deemed indigent and allowed access to treatment free of charge.

Belec said the centre would treat the patients according to medical, clinical, biological, social and behavioural criteria.

The two-storey centre, to be built on 400 square metres, will have its own pharmacy, laboratory, conference room, offices for the staff, consultation rooms and a four-bed hospitalisation room.

In the meantime, French health officials and the CAR health ministry are involved in discussions over a inter-hospital programme worth 500,000 euros ($550,450). The programme will be facilitated by the Ensemble pour un Solidarite Therapeutique et Hospitaliere en Reseau (ESTHER).

Belec, the programme's coordinator, told PlusNews that if the two health ministers signed an agreement in April, ESTHER would immediately involve itself in the easy-access to ARV programme, and train the medical personnel on HIV/AIDS care and home-care for HIV-infected people in Bangui, where according to Belec, 50 to 60 people die of HIV/AIDS daily.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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