UN to provide ARVs for 1,000 HIV-positive people

The UN system in the Republic of Congo is to provide 1,000 HIV-positive people with antiretroviral treatment, the UN country coordinator Aurelien Agbenonci has said in the capital, Brazzaville.

"Given the high cost of treatment, it is only by means of a strengthened national and international solidarity that we can mobilise the necessary resources to facilitate effective ARV treatment programmes," he said. "This is the reason for the action taken by the UN system to reinforce national initiatives with a view to enabling a greater number of people living with HIV to have access to ARVs."

The programme is designed to give particular attention to include people from the poorest segment of the population.

The announcement was made on Wednesday in connection with the UN's launch of a weeklong campaign to inform the country of the Millennium Development Goals [www.un.org].

According to the UN, only 133 Congolese are currently receiving ARV treatment in the country.

The cost of ARV treatment in the Congo remains a major problem for most. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the annual cost is about 240,000 francs CFA (US $442) per year, roughly two-thirds of the average annual income.

"We are organising on 17 October a dinner of solidarity, with the objective of mobilising funds to help to enable these 1,000 people to have access to care for a one-year period," Agbenonci said.

He added that the funds raised would be managed by a tripartite committee consisting of representatives from the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the secretariat of the National Council to Combat AIDS (Conseil national de lutte contre le SIDA), and people living with HIV/AIDS.

According to the Congolese government, about 10 percent of the country's population of 3.1 million may be HIV-positive.

A similar initiative to provide ARVs for 1,000 people was announced in April by the Ministry of Health. However, due to a lack of resources, the project has experienced difficulties in getting started.

[See earlier IRIN story, "Health minister announces ARV treatment for 1,000"]