This week Uganda became the second African country to distribute free generic anti-HIV drugs through a program designed to treat all of the country's 100,000 people living with AIDS, health minister Jim Muhwezi announced. Vans dispensed $1.3 million worth of antiretroviral drugs across Uganda to 23 health centers as well as government and church-run hospitals for the first 2,700 HIV patients to be treated under the initiative, Muhwezi said.
"Today we are beginning to give people free treatment," said Muhwezi, noting that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria gave Uganda $70 million over five years to help finance the program. Additional money for the program is also expected from the U.S. government.
To date Botswana is the only country in Africa to provide free antiretroviral treatment to all who need it, although it uses the more expensive brand-name drugs. Late last year South Africa approved its own program but estimates it will take five years to treat all qualifying patients. Several African countries have programs that provide HIV-positive pregnant women with drugs to help prevent mother-to-child HIV transmissions. (AP)