MOZAMBIQUE - Of 14.000 new cases of infection every day in 2003, no less than 12.000 were people aged between 15 and 45. S. Egidio Community’s DREAM project assists children in Africa

Saturday, 3 April 2004

Rome (Fides Service) - DREAM programme started by the S. Egidio Community cares for children in many ways. The most important regard treatment of pregnant mothers to ensure two objectives: the life of the mother and the prevention of mother-child transmission. Thanks to the programme more than 400 infants of HIV+ positive mothers were born healthy, with the lowering of the transmission rate from 35-40% theoretical 3. 5%. This excellent result was obtained by using the not just the mono-therapy but the triple therapy used in Western countries.
Besides this preventive activity we must say that most of our present patients are children with AIDS or HIV+. The problem is enormous and so far few experiences have been concerned with it. For babies who do not receive antiretroviral therapy there is a high probability of death within the first years of life and in any case a life span of not longer than 15 years. DREAM has already treated 200 child patients with the same good results as with adults: not only a lowering of the birth rate but better health, life quality and growth and development process. .
This first intervention shows the fact that DREAM is a model of success and that it can be extended at the level of health systems. This is the challenge we intend to face in the next few years. UNAIDS estimate for 2003, a total of 40 million HIV+ persons in the world, of which at least 26 million in Africa. The trend of the epidemic on that continent does not appear to have slowed down and it is certainly increasing in Eastern Europe, India and China. What is concerning is not only the number of victims which is impressive and dramatic when we think that the number of persons already dead and those expected in the future will reach figures close to those of World War II.
AIDS has also been called a “development crisis” due to the marked economic, demographic and social impact, which accompanies the spread of the epidemic. It suffices to think that the virus has produced an inversion of the natural growth tendency in most Sub-Saharan countries. AIDS strikes mainly young people at the productive age: of about 14,000 new cases every day in 2003, no less than 12,000 were persons aged 15 to 45. This leads to the deterioration of all forms poverty and an impressive haemorrhage of middle and high level, which has negative effects on all sectors of development. Mozambique for example loses every year about 400 state schoolteachers and unless something is done the teacher/pupil rate may deteriorate to become by 2010 equal to 1/80. Some analysts say that AIDS played a decisive role - although not exclusive- in causing famine in recent years as in Malawi for example.
In the last decade Mozambique has lost a good part of its labour force - mainly involved in agriculture - and it is top of the list of African countries for the number of AIDS orphans. No less than 5% of its population is represented by these minors and families composed of grandparents and grandchildren totally incapable of economic independence express the most evident stigmata of the disease. An interesting and concerning report from the World Bank July 2003 warned that within a few generations AIDS will cause the economic collapse of whole countries such as South Africa with the vertical crash of GNP around 50%.
DREAM, started in Mozambique and now beginning in Malawi, Tanzania, South Africa, Swaziland and Guinea Conakry, is a global response to the problem. In 2002-2003 the model was realised in all its components and we have now about 4,000 HIV+ patients being assisted and more than 1,400 people receiving complete antiretroviral treatment. The scaling up process foresees a doubling of the rate every six months. DREAM has certain aspects: completely free diagnosis and assistance; standards of quality equal to those of western countries; strategies of nutrition, control and treatment of other pathologies such as malaria, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, technology used, computerised centres, patients take part in support activity of new HIV+ positive persons and the complex activity of health education. (AP) (3/4/2004 Agenzia Fides)