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Official: Uganda
can’t treat all its HIV patients

Official: Uganda
can’t treat all its HIV patients

Successful HIV antibody testing in Uganda, begun as part of a government education campaign that cut infection rates from 30% to 6%, has now created more patients than the country can care for, according to Hank McKinnell, chairman and chief executive of U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

"Four or five years ago, the objective was to overcome the stigma, to get people tested and then get them into counseling and care," said McKinnell. "We have moved past that. Testing is now more routine in Uganda, and that is creating its own problem. We now have more patients than we can possibly deal with."

About 1.2 million of Uganda's 26 million people are thought to be HIV-positive. Health workers say more than 100,000 need antiretroviral drugs, but most cannot access or afford them.

McKinnell spoke before opening an HIV clinic supported by Pfizer in the western Ugandan town of Mbarara, roughly 186 miles from the capital, Kampala. The $700,000 center, of which Pfizer funded half, hopes to treat 1,000 local patients with anti-HIV medications. Motorbike couriers will deliver the drugs to some patients in the most remote villages.

A Ugandan nongovernmental agency, the AIDS Support Organization, will run the center. "The new facility in Mbarara will boost our capacity by 100%, increasing patient medical sessions to 50,000 in 2006 and counseling sessions to 15,000, up 6%," said Alex Coutinho, TASO's executive director. (Reuters)

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