Sant'Egidio sets up free Congo AIDS clinic

Inauguaration of the new centre. photo credit: Sant Egidio community

ROME -- A new clinic Centre called DREAM (Drug Resource Enhancement Against AIDS and Malnutrition) has been opened by the Sant'Egidio community in Kinshasa, providing a new source of hope in the fight against the HIV pandemic, the community has announced. The clinic is the result of "a collaboration signed by the Community of Sant’Egidio with the Congolese Health Ministry, which has agreed to provide the necessary treatment drugs," the community said in a statement. The DREAM programme began in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009. Another treatment centre was built at Mbandaka, in Equateur province.

 An inaugural ceremony was attended by the president of the Sant’ Egidio community, Marco Impagliazzo, the Vice-President of the DREAM foundation, Maria Cristina Marazzi, and the coordinator for DREAM in Africa, Dr Paola Germano. Representing the Congolese government were the Health minister , Professor Victor Makwenge Kaput, and important figures of Congolese society including the Archbishop of Kinshasa, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya.

 The DREAM programme, entirely free for HIV positive patients, is intended to be a centre of excellence and technology in a country where more than half a million people are estimated to live with HIV/AIDS. The Kinshasa centre is financed by Assicurazioni Generali and with a contribution from the Children of the Danube association.

 Kinshasa, the RDC capital, has about 10 million inhabitants. The DREAM centre is situated in Bibwa, a district inhabited by some 300,000 people which has no other health centre.

 The DREAM centre in Kinshasa started working before the official inauguration. Its molecular biology laboratory, which specializes in the detection of CD4 immune cells and viral particles, already is becoming of national importance.

DREAM is a global initiative which aims to control, prevent and treat HIV infections in countries with limited resources. Today DREAM is present in 10 African countries, contributing to improving the health of nearly two million people on the continent.

The main initiatives of DREAM include detection of infections and counselling, free retroviral treatment, training of local staff (doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, and community workers), health education (schools and workplaces, prisons, infancy centres), prevention of vertical mother-son transmission by tri-therapy; setting up of a Molecular Biology Laboratory; prevention and treatment of opportunistic diseases (infections and sexually transmittable diseases); nutritional support for seropositive people; and treatment at home.

Antiretroviral treatment is the most efficient mean of HIV prevention, due to its potential for completely eliminating the virus from the blood stream and the rest of the body while drastically reducing infection in patients. By eliminating the virus from the body of infected persons, the probability of infecting other people is also significantly reduced, experts say.

According to the 2010 U.N. AIDS report, the world is now experiencing a regression of the HIV pandemic. Recently, more than five million people in countries in the global South have been able to access antiretroviral therapy. This has resulted in an observable decline in new infections.

"These new data show that much is being done, that many HIV positive people are now undergoing a treatment, mainly thanks to the help of international organisations, NGOs, and several countries involved," Sant'Egidio said in a statement. "There is also a lot left to do. DREAM has taken up a big challenge trying to provide antiretroviral drugs to as many people as possible in Africa, with the support of many public and private donors. 

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