HIV/AIDS Advocates In Swaziland Call For Expansion Of Antiretroviral Program

Armen Hareyan's picture

Some HIV/AIDS advocates are calling on Swaziland to expand and strengthen its national antiretroviral program, IRIN Newsreports. The advocates also say that the country faces seriouschallenges, particularly in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS amongwomen.

The Ministry of Health and Welfarelast week at a conference in Manzini, Swaziland, said that about 15,000people receive antiretroviral access through the government-sponsoredtreatment program and that the number is expected to double by the endof the year. However, advocates said the drugs are reaching only afraction of those in need and targets should be dramatically increased,IRIN News reports. According to IRIN News,the Swazi government has allotted 43 million rand, or $6.25 million, tothe national antiretroviral program. Thembi Nkambule, nationalcoordinator for the Swaziland National Network of People Living WithHIV and AIDS, said, "There is a need to make antiretrovirals moreavailable to children and to develop a national antiretroviral literacycurriculum and an urgent need to scale up community awareness aroundthe accessibility" of the drugs.


Officials at the conferencealso discussed ensuring the availability and affordability of drugsupplies, as well as the finalization of national nutritionalguidelines for people living with HIV/AIDS, IRIN Newsreports. According to Albertina Nyatsi, head of the Manzini-basedPositive Women Together, uncertainty over whether people are adheringto their treatment regimens has been an obstacle to the success of theprogram. She added that "transportation is a significant hinderingfactor for access" to treatment.

A report compiled by theNational Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS, which was based on asimilar conference held in Swaziland in May, said that some churchleaders and traditional medicine practitioners are giving parishionersand clients inaccurate information about HIV/AIDS. "Some traditionalhealers are making concoctions that are mixed with [antiretrovirals],and these remedies are taken by people living with HIV/AIDS,heightening the risk of drug resistance and reversal of progressgained" by the national program, the report said.

The NERCHAreport, distributed at the Manzini conference, also said that hospitaland health clinic nurses who provide prenatal care are advising someHIV-positive women against having children or to have an abortion ifthey are pregnant and have significantly low CD4+ T cell counts, IRIN Newsreports. Nyatsi said that information on antiretrovirals "still remainsinaccessible for many Swazi women living positively," adding, "Mostinformation is generalized and needs to be tailored for women-specificneeds." She also said that in addition to "living with the stigma ofbeing HIV-positive, most women are restricted by family members andhusbands from going on [antiretrovirals] because of the expense,"Nyatsi said. The United Nations estimates that 33.4% of Swazis betweenages 15 and 49 are HIV-positive (IRIN News, 7/19).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork\t\t\t\t\t\t\t

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