A staggering 70% of African people on antiretroviral treatment (ART) are at risk of losing this life saving treatment in the next 12 months due to the economic crisis, according to a recent World Bank report. Considering that only one in three HIV-positive people in Africa actually receive ART, the economic crisis holds a serious health threat to the continent.
This is one of the concerns expressed yesterday by HIV and TB activists at the start of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Cape Town. The Treatment Action Campaign and Aids and Rights Alliance of Southern Africa (ARASA) are calling on the region's leaders to prioritise health, and in particular the treatment, prevention and care of TB/HIV during their planning at the WEF.
"As financial resources become increasingly scarce, it is more imperative than ever for regional leaders to ensure that their priorities are in line with the needs of the people they serve," reads a TAC report. "As world leaders gather in Cape Town to discuss the economic crisis and to develop a new roadmap for Africa's future, activists around the region will be watching the outcomes of this meeting for evidence of political commitement to the rights of people living with HIV and TB on the continent."
"Access to ART is already in crisis and the current economic crisis could trigger a disaster," said Paula Akugizibwe from ARASA. If leaders fail to provide resources in the fight against HIV/Aids, TB and other health issues, they are actually creating additional and unnecessary costs to themselves as an increasingly sick population will put pressure on healthcare systems, said Akugizibwe.
According to Rebecca Hodes from the TAC, the public health sector is already feeling the pinch of the economic crisis as stock-outs and shortages of ART, TB-medication, condoms and other basic medication have already been reported at clinics in various provinces. – (Wilma Stassen, Health24)