23 July 2009

End in sight to Aids drug treks?

A week after giving birth to her sixth child, Christine Achan walked 60 km (37 miles) from her village in northern Uganda to get life-saving anti-retroviral drugs to stop her and her baby becoming sick with Aids.

Doctors say it is villagers like her that the results of Africa's largest and longest running clinical test, the Dart trial, should help.

The research suggests that more HIV/Aids patients in Africa could be treated if funds were switched from expensive laboratory testing to local care in villages.

As she waited to see the doctor in the clinic at Patongo, Christine Achan said: "It takes me two days to get here and two days to get back.

"It is very difficult. But I do this because I want to stay healthy so that I can look after my children."
Ms Achan left her eldest child, who is 12, in charge of the others. Her husband died of Aids three months ago, too weak to make the journey.

She called her baby Odongo, which means "child born after the loss of his father".

This was a preventable death. Anti-retroviral drugs are very effective in keeping the HIV virus suppressed and preventing the onset of Aids.

But to get the drugs villagers have to go to Patongo. Part of the reason for this is that the normal monitoring of treatment also requires patients to do routine blood tests to check for side effects and to make sure that the medicines are working.

Technicians come to the Patongo clinic once a fortnight to take blood.

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