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Last Updated: Friday, 26 November, 2004, 16:06 GMT
Do antiretrovirals make a difference?
Antiretroviral drugs
Have ARVs made a difference to your life?

Aids kills nearly 6,000 people each day in Africa - more than wars, famines and floods.

There is no cure yet for the disease, even though a series of drugs have been developed which significantly prolong the lives of people who are HIV-positive.

These antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) block the virus's ability to replicate.

They can delay the onset of Aids by slowing the attack on the immune system.

If you take ARVs or know someone who does, the BBC's Africa Live would like to hear your story:

What is it like to live on these drugs? Have they made a difference to your quality of life?

We also want to hear about the availability of ARVs in Africa.

How affordable are they? And are you able to access ARVs in your country?

Tell us what you think by using the form on the right and join the debate on Wednesday 1 December at 1630GMT and 1830GMT on the BBC World Service.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, include with your telephone number, which will not be published.


How can ARVs make a difference, when in some parts of Africa many still can't declare their positive status because of fear of stigmatization? Others don't even know that antiretroviral drugs exist.
Halima, Somaliland

HIV/Aids victims in Africa cannot afford decent meals not to mention clean water to help gulp down the antiretrovirals.
Franklin Cudjoe, Ghana

The real nuts to crack are excessive government regulations and poor health infrastructure. It is significant to note also that HIV/Aids victims in Africa especially cannot afford decent meals not to mention clean water to help gulp down the antiretroviral. So there are real economic issues to deal with.
Franklin Cudjoe, Ghana

I believe the impact of ARVs will be very little at a large cost benefiting only the companies that make them, except when using these to reduce vertical transmission from pregnant mothers to their unborn babies. I believe any efforts and resources, should be used to on education or programmes to get people out of poverty which further aggravates the spread of HIV.
Khalique Panhwar, Pakistan

I do not think antiretrovirals will make a difference particularly in the lives of most Africans. My worry is, even if enough ARVs were supplied to developing African Countries, there are other obstacles that would have to be overcome if these drugs have to be effective. These ARV drugs, often taken in large quantities need to be taken with food and clean water. But hundreds of thousands of people in most African countries can eat only every other day.
Momoh Magona-Kallon, Canada

Antiretroviral drugs are very expensive for the poor and how is it possible for those who earn less than half a dollar a day in this part of the world to buy such drugs?
Albert P'Rayan, Indian in Rwanda

ARVs remain vastly inaccessible, despite new investments. Health systems need buildings and health care staff need training. But the most important thing is for governments around the world to start acting with a sense of urgency. Too much money and time is being wasted on war and politics, whilst millions unnecessarily die of HIV/Aids.
Susie McLean, UK

The provision of cheap drugs must be accompanied with methods to prevent the spread of the disease.
Martha Banda, Zambia

We must not concentrate all our efforts on these drugs as they are NOT A CURE. They only bring the disease to manageable levels the same way as we deal with hypertension and diabetes. Even if you are taking drugs you are still able to pass on the infection to others. Therefore I believe the provision of cheap drugs must be accompanied with methods to prevent the spread of the disease. Otherwise it's a no win battle no matter how many drugs you develop and no matter how cheap or free they become.
Martha Banda, Zambia

I am a pharmacist at Uganda's Mbarara University Hospital - which is public owned. Here we are supplying 250 patients with Ministry of Health free ARVs, but more importantly we are now selling a generic drug containing three ARVs for 30,000 shillings for a month's treatment (about $15).
Pippa Jayne, Uganda

ARVs do work. In Botswana they are provided for free even though the government is still struggling to reach remote places. I have a friend who is taking them and initially he was bed ridden, due to the long waiting time we thought he was not going to make it, but he was enrolled. I went with him to the counselling session and now we are following the doctor's prescription and he is now back to work. Before taking the drugs his CD4 cell count was below 200 now it is more than 800. The most important thing is family and friend's support so that one takes the drugs on time, also proper meals and exercising.
Onalenna Mosetlhe, Botswana

Why are there not more NGOs pushing the government to make this drugs more available?
Holly Hutchison, Burkina Faso

For two and a half years I was a peace corps volunteer in Burkina Faso, working in public health, particularly HIV/ AIDS. I lived in the southwest region near the borders of Ghana and Cote D'Ivoire, where HIV transmission rates are rapidly increasing. Last month the regional hospital made ARVs available, but for the price of the equivalent of $10 per month, this is too expensive for the common person. Until recently, people also had to travel to the capital, paying their own transportation costs. Why are there not more NGOs pushing the government to make this drugs more available?
Holly Hutchison, Burkina Faso

ARVs have made a big difference to my father's life. Before, he used to constantly fall sick but not since he started using them. About the availability - they are affordable in some places they are sold, and to some rural places they are supplied freely.
Mwesiga Edmond, Uganda

For a few - say 5% - ARVs have made a difference but for the 95% of people things are the same because the drugs are expensive and people keep dying everyday.
Okafor Ada, Ghana

My five year old brother is on ARV therapy. We get them free from the Government hospital here in Botswana. He has been on ARVs for the past seven months. Before he was put on therapy, he would have all sorts of problems, ear infections, eyes, body rash, temperature, rapid weight loss, cough, etc. And we would be going to the local clinic at least every week. Since he started this therapy, we take him to the hospital for a check up after every three months. The ARVs have really made a difference in my brother's life and for us his carers. The drugs have to be taken every day at specified times but the benefits that we get from them outweigh the hassle of taking them.
Malebogo Lebotse, Botswana

I have not used these drugs myself but I have a close relative who does and I must say it is expensive to be on these drugs as a person has to fork out on average 400 000 Zimbabwe dollars every month to purchase them. Remember we are talking of people who have other responsibilities. One other thing is that governments, especially in Africa, should think of having one source as a provider of ARVs because there are those individuals who are now taking advantage of the desperate situation and go about sourcing these drugs from anyone!
Caroline Moyo, Zimbabwe

My 13 year old nephew is living with HIV. He's on ARVs. The mother died last July from HIV related complications. We haven't yet tested my eight year old niece if she has the virus. I am not too sure I can handle more at this time.
M Lombe, South Africa

ARVs must be made free to all HIV patients in Africa.
Isaac Donkor, Ghana

In my opinion, the ARVs must be made free to all HIV patients in Africa.
Isaac Donkor, Ghana

The ARV drugs, in my home country come in three classes: (1) Very good (2) So so and (3) You will live but you will have pain and it will show. They are commonly referred to as "the cocktail". In the early days before the economic decline set in the price of these drugs was just about within reach of the then middle class. But now to be honest even the type three drug is well beyond what many can afford. In the past I have bought these drugs in the UK for relatives back home but usually that will only give them a few months respite yet these drugs are a lifetime commitment. People in the UK living with HIV do not know how lucky they are because those of us from developing countries have had no choice but to watch and wring our hands in despair.
Mutsa Tsoko, UK/Zimbabwe

ARVs really help in delaying the onset of the dreaded AIDS. I have seen friends and relatives who rose from the brink of death to get back to work after taking ARVs. The only problem that I see is the daily routine involved in taking this medication. Many of the semi-illiterate to illiterate people easily skip medication and as a result become resistant to the drugs. It would be better to give drugs that can be taken once a day or so.
Lesego Kgotlhang, Botswana

Antiretrovirals could only make a difference when it gets to the majority of all that needed it at very affordable prices or even distributed free of charge just like the polio vaccine is being given to most African countries. Such efforts no matter how small, could drive a strong message about HIV/Aids and sexually transmitted diseases and the means to combat them.
Christian Merenini, Nigeria

The government of Botswana gives free antiretrovirals to its citizens. The country was for a long time known to be the hardest hit nation with more than 300,000 of its population of 1.7 million estimated to be infected! I know some individuals who, before going on the drug therapy, were sickly but after starting ARV therapy they literally come back to life! It is gratifying to note that drug companies have been persuaded to lower prices. However many poor people particularly in the least developed countries are still dying unnecessarily because they do not have access to ARVs.
Mmabatho, Botswana

ARVs do aid patients but the West has neo-colonised Africa, looking at the way the drugs are being distributed. Even the drugs that Africa receives are only generics - the originals are left for the well-to-do in the West. It is time Africa rose to the occasion and redeemed her people form the verge of death. The West gives aid with one hand and gives us a death sentence with the other hand by giving us substandard ARVs.
Maseme Machuka, Uganda

Most Africans earn under one US dollar a day - how can they spend 10 a day on ARVs?
Dr T Ugulla , Tanzania/UK

Western produced ARVs will never be affordable in Africa unless they are produced in Africa. It is a simple economic fact. Most Africans earn under one US dollar a day - how can they spend 10 a day on ARVs?
Dr T Ugulla , Tanzania/UK

Last year I gave a middle aged lady a lift between Mahalapye and Palapye in Botswana. She told me how her viral load decreased dramatically after enrolling on ARV treatment. She was very thankful of the Botswana government for having rolled out free ARV treatment. I could see her face full of great hope that she would live for many years to come.
Jayson Sechele, Motswana studying in Canada

Of course, to those who are fortunate enough to have access, they probably do make a difference. The problem, however, is that without basic health care infrastructure, it is difficult to see how even the current low levels of assistance can be sustained. In any event, to predicate your health care system on foreign aid, it seems to me, can only be a self-defeating exercise.
UE, UK/Nigeria

On my part as somebody working closer with an ARV clinic, I feel they make a difference to somebody's life if they do not have serious complications by the time they are starting the treatment. In my country where they are given free of charge, many people have benefited and their lives have changed, though few people die soon after starting the treatment, not because of the ARV's but perhaps they have full blown Aids.
Cecilia Ngwira, Malawi

You have to believe that the drug will work on you, and take it as prescribed by your doctor.
Taiwo, London

I have been taking antiretroviral drugs for the last three years, thank God they have improved my life. Taking medication is in the mind - you have to believe that the drug will work on you, and take it as prescribed by your doctor.
Taiwo, London

The issue of ARVs is pathetic in Africa as the common man cannot afford it. But lets face priorities towards fighting HIV/Aids problem. ARVs do not solve the problem. What solves the problem is stopping the spread.
Okpala Odilichukwu Ralueke

We hear about antiretrovirals only on the media. We don't see them as we see drugs such as quinine, aspirin e.t.c. ARVs are expensive. Moreover, taking them requires certain diet, which implies that we don't meet the conditions required for taking ARVs.
Kapinga Ntumba, Zimbabwe

Millions of people in Africa are impoverished. The cost of these drugs are beyond them. Governments in African countries should implement positive policies that would make these drugs readily available to the average man, at a price he can easily afford.
Farriel, Nigeria.

Some people living with HIV/Aids like myself are afraid of the toxic content of these drugs.
George

ARVs do make a great deal of difference. Some people living with HIV/Aids like myself are afraid of the toxic content of these drugs and do everything possible to keep off them at the moment. The alternative is to explore ways of living positively which entails proper diets, adequate rest, exercises and medical attention.
G, Nigeria

ARVs work with a good food supplements. We have lost family members because they can't afford these drugs.
Steve, Canada

ARV's do make a difference in people's lives as they tend to prolong the life of an affected person just like someone with blood pressure or diabetes. ARV's are not available for the ordinary person in Africa but for top government officials and those who are rich. The West and WHO should make sure that the prices are not exorbitant but affordable to the poor. After all the majority of ARV's are manufactured in the West and I feel they can lobby for cheaper drugs for the African continent.
Tamy, Uk

The cost of the drug doesn't matter. What is killing Africans is poverty.
Osuigwe Chukwuemeka, Nigerian in SA

The cost of the drug doesn't matter. What is killing Africans is poverty. Yes there is HIV, people can prolong their life if they can have access to better living. The whole world is talking much about HIV, yet ignoring the most dangerous enemy in Africa, poverty.
Osuigwe Chukwuemeka, Nigerian in SA

I have relatives who are on the drugs. The drugs are now affordable but people are still dying. Is it true there are types of the HIV virus that kill faster irrespective of your medication?
Monono Henry Ngale, Cameroon

ARVs are available in one hospital in Lagos. A one month dose costs about $450. And they make your life very disgusting. You feel headache and dizzy throughout the day.
CH, Nigeria

ARVs are helping prolong life. But poverty partly contributes to poor access to ARV drugs.
Owen Mayapi, Zambia

Aids is just not a disease but a serious economic problem. America's Magic Johnson is still alive, over a decade and a half since he was diagnosed with the virus. But HIV patients in Africa die a few years after contracting the virus. Is South Africa's President Mbeki not right when he asserted that Aids is a development problem?
Freeman Tettey, Ghana




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