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8436: Poverty no obstacle to AIDS treatment (mention of Haiti) (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Lisa Richwine

     UNITED NATIONS, June 22 (Reuters) - Health and U.N. officials said on
Friday they have evidence the latest AIDS treatments can work in
impoverished villages, contradicting statements by large drug companies
that even free anti-retroviral drugs would not help where medical support
is lacking.
     "Anti-retroviral therapy for poor countries is not a dream any longer.
It's an emerging reality," said Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS.
     Piot spoke ahead of a major U.N. conference at which officials will
discuss global funding to buy medicines for poor countries including the
anti-retroviral drugs that can add years to the lives of HIV-infected
people. The conference is set to open on Monday.
     A small clinic in rural Haiti has shown obstacles can be overcome,
said Joia Mukherjee, clinical director for a Harvard Medical School project
that runs the program.
     With no job opportunities, people in the area live off subsistence
farming, and have no electricity or running water. The clinic has a
generator that "sometimes" provides electricity, she said.
     Still, patients walk up to seven hours to the clinic and wait
overnight to receive aid. Seventy people have been treated with
anti-retroviral therapy, and all have seen their health improve, Mukherjee
     "Our patients have gained weight, gone back to their farming, gone
back to being able to take care of their children ... It's more or less a
miracle," Mukherjee said.
     On a larger scale, Brazil has provided a dramatic example of how drug
treatment can slow the spread of AIDS. A decade ago, world agencies
projected 1.2 million Brazilians would be infected with HIV. Today, the
number is 600,000.
     The key has been early intervention with local production of generic
medicines provided to patients at no charge and doctor training for simple
clinics, said Paulo Teixeira, coordinator of Brazil's AIDS program, which
provides free treatment to anyone infected.
     Drug resistance can occur when patients fail to take drugs properly.
But the rates are no greater than in wealthier nations, Teixeira said.
     "Sure we have problems ... but the message is it's possible even in a
developing country and in very poor settings," Teixeira said.
     About 36 million people worldwide are estimated to have the AIDS
virus, and 25 million of them live in sub-Saharan Africa, where medical
resources are scarce.
     Peter Mugyenyi, director of the Joint Clinical Research Center in
Uganda, where aggressive programs have cut HIV prevalence in adults,
predicted that his African neighbors would find ways to get the drugs to
patients who are desperate for treatment.
     "Please don't ask any African patient if he wants treatment, and don't
ask him whether he will comply with it," Mugyenyi said. "It is a big, big
yes. Anti-retroviral therapy can be used in Africa."