31 March 2003
Bujumbura, Burundi – “The doctor in my village didn’t want to acknowledge I am HIV positive, because he has no knowledge about the disease,” says 43-year-old Clement, father of 13 children. “I am grateful to know the people of this center who understand me, and who listen to me when I am depressed. They monitor the virus and prescribe medicines for opportunistic infections I might develop. I know antiretroviral drugs are available, and we need these drugs in Burundi too; it is now or never.”
Clement is visiting the health clinic of one of the country’s best organized NGOs assisting people with HIV and AIDS in Burundi’s capital city, Bujumbura. Soon the National Association for People Living with HIV and AIDS (ANSS) will open two new centers in the countryside, building on the successes achieved to date. ANSS makes available voluntary counseling and testing, provides care, and recently introduced antiretroviral drugs.
New money is boosting Burundi’s response to HIV/AIDS, following today’s signing of the first grant agreement between the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and a Central African country. The $4.8 million grant provides additional resources to drastically scale up a number of effective treatment and prevention programs in Burundi, Africa’s most density populated country. The money from the grant covers procurement of antiretroviral therapy for more than 2,500 people living with HIV through a pioneering approach using community members to promote adherence to treatment. It also couples behavioral change interventions and treatment for over 500 mothers reducing mother-to-baby transmission, and a massive upgrade of NGO prevention and care services targeting youth. In collaboration without precedent in strife-torn Burundi, the program is overseen by a partnership that brings together government, people living with HIV/AIDS, civil society, faith-based organizations, multilateral organizations, bilateral donors, and the private sector. Accountability and rapid disbursements of funds to community-based organizations and NGOs is ensured by the National AIDS Council, which manages the project.
“Burundi’s long and difficult relationship with AIDS is today made worse by deteriorating health and social care structures, a situation precipitated by an unfortunate internal armed conflict,” said Genevieve Nakaha-Sindabizera, Minister for HIV/AIDS in Burundi, and chairperson of Burundi’s Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM). Dr Joseph Wakana, the Executive Secretary of the National AIDS Council added: “The Global Fund grant helps overcome many barriers to just and adequate treatment for people living with HIV, offers testing to a greater segment of the population, promotes prevention, and ultimately contributes to reversing current socio-economic conditions in Burundi that facilitate the spread of AIDS, empowering local ownership of the fight against HIV/AIDS.”