[Ip-health] MSF issues PR on lack of access to drugs for major cause of death for people with HIV

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Fri Dec 9 09:06:43 PST 2011

Medecins Sans Frontieres issued a press release during the week on the
availability of drugs to treat cryptococcal meningitis, a major cause of
death of people living with HIV/AIDS; please find press release below and a
link to the related background document.

First-Ever Treatment Guidelines Released for Major Cause of Death of People
Living with HIV

*MSF study shows cryptococcal meningitis as leading cause of death, but
access to best treatment is a major challenge*



* *

*Addis Ababa**, 7 December 2011* – The World Health Organization (WHO) has
issued the first-ever guidelines for the treatment of cryptococcal
meningitis – a disease ranking among the top causes of death among people
living with HIV/AIDS. However, access to some of the WHO-recommended
medicines ranges from difficult to non-existent in developing countries.

According to data presented by the international medical humanitarian
organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) at the ICASA AIDS conference in
Addis Ababa, cryptococcal disease is a major cause of illness and death in
many parts of Africa. The study looked at the cause of death among 36,664
people started on antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 25 Médecins Sans
Frontières treatment programs in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, between
2002 and 2010. In this study, patients infected with extrapulmonary
cryptococcosis had a 3.5 times increased risk of dying in the first six
months after antiretroviral therapy was started; the greatest risk of all
opportunistic infections associated with HIV.

“Our findings show that people living with HIV/AIDS are frequently
contracting and dying of cryptococcal disease,” said Dr. Daniel O’Brien,
HIV/AIDS Advisor with MSF and one of the authors of the study.  “It’s very
good news there are finally clear guidelines for how to diagnose early and
treat this disease, but access to the needed drugs remains a big challenge.”

The main drugs recommended by WHO include amphotericin B and flucytosine as
first choice, with amphotericin B and fluconazole as alternatives when the
first regimen is unavailable or unaffordable. Access to flucytosine is
restricted because it is not registered in most countries in sub-Saharan
Africa where the HIV burden is highest. Registration barriers also exist
for amphotericin B, and there have been global shortages of the drug, with
South Africa and other countries likely to face stock-outs this year.  In
South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal province, researchers found that only 35
percent of patients received any amphotericin B at all, with only 8 percent
receiving the recommended two week treatment course.

“To address HIV/AIDS properly depends on being able to prevent, diagnose,
treat and cure the opportunistic infections that are ultimately causing the
AIDS deaths,” said Dr. O’Brien.

Joanna Keenan
Press Officer
Access Campaign
Medecins Sans Frontieres
E: joanna.keenan[at]geneva.msf.org
T: @joanna_keenan


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