As HIV Drugs Spread Hope, Africa’s Health Systems Struggle

I walked slowly through a maze of queues into the clinician’s small office stacked high with patients’ files. It was 7:30 a.m. on a cold winter morning and the facility was crowded with people. Through supporting various facilities of the Ministry of Health across Malawi, I’ve learned that on Tuesday and Thursdays the Migowi clinic in Phalombe District offers HIV treatment and care services as early as 4:30 a.m. so that the only medical officer on duty could see all the HIV patients.

This is the type of commitment that comes from many health care workers in Malawi. They put in the extra effort to help people, and this commitment has been challenged by the global shift in HIV treatment and care services, especially with the reduction in the cost of HIV treatment drugs. Since this reduction in the early 2000’s, Malawi has seen a huge increase in the number of patients enrolled in care, from about 5,000 in 2004 to just over 500,000 in 2011.

The price of antiretroviral drugs has reduced from $10,000 per person a decade ago to around $200 annually in some developing countries. This price reduction resulted from a combination of global activist pressure…

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