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Rwanda set to offer free AIDS drugs
  Associated Press/Chicago Tribune
August 6, 2004
KIGALI, Rwanda -- Rwanda will use international aid to offer free generic drugs by the year's end to 90,000 people infected with HIV and AIDS, a 20-fold increase in the number of people receiving treatment, an official said Thursday.
The program would treat about 100,000 people by 2007 and would be funded by $85 million in aid from the U.S. government, the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
"For us to attain this, we plan to start purchasing generic drugs because they are a lot cheaper than the branded ones," said Louis Munyakazi, head of the Treatment Research for AIDS Center.
About 13 percent of Rwanda's 8.5 million people--or about 1.1 million people--are infected with HIV that causes AIDS.
But only about 4,350 people have access to life-prolonging drugs widely available in wealthier countries, Munyakazi said.
A dose of the antiretroviral drugs costs as much as $30 in this central African nation. More than 60 percent of Rwandans live on less than $1 a day.
The international funding will help Rwanda care for orphans and others affected by the pandemic. About 250,000 people will benefit from the program by 2007, Munyakazi said.
The new effort is one of Africa's most ambitious. Nigeria launched a similar program in 2002 aimed at providing cheap medicine to 10,000 adults and 5,000 children infected with HIV. However, the program has suffered delays and setbacks, such as when 25 special treatment centers ran out of drugs in September and took nearly six months to get back on track.
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