Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)
April 27, 2007
Posted to the web April 27, 2007
By Brenda Yufeh
The cost of antiretroviral drugs has moved from CFA 600,000 in 2001 to zero francs from the Ist of May, 2007.
The path might have been long and difficult, but the government of Cameroon finally reached the point. That is, bringing the cost of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs from CFA 600,000 in 2001 to Zero francs from May 1st, this year. “We are coming from far”, the Minister of Public Health, Urbain Olanguena Awono notes.
The long journey towards free antiretroviral drugs has not been easy. Authorities at the Ministry of Public Health say in the ministry’s first strategic plan of 2000-2005, the government in 2001 adopted the initiative “Access to Treatment” which essentially aimed at reducing the price of HIV/AIDS treatment thanks to the commitment of big scientific laboratories. Because of government’s commitment, the result of the “Access to Treatment” initiative was the reduction of HIV treatment to about 1/3. That is to about CFA 370,000. In 2002, following discussions between the government and pharmaceutical firms that produce antiretroviral drugs, Cameroon step down prices to between CFA 70,000 to 100,000 per month and per patient, for first line and second line treatment respectively.
Within government’s policy of introducing generic drugs and continuous subventions from the government, the cost of ARV later dropped again to between CFA 22,000 to 68,000. Government’s policy of direct subvention on ARV brought the price schedule of ARV to a minimum cost ranging between CFA 15,000 to 18,000 for first and second line treatment per month and for a patient. In 2003, the World Bank accepted to subsidise 50 per cent of the HIV treatment, in addition to government’s subvention. In 2004-2005, the Minister of Public Health laid down the subsidized package of clinical laboratory examinations for persons living with HIV/AIDS at CFA 3,000, with those for pregnant women being free. From 2006 to April 31st, 2007, the cost of ARV remained between CFA 3,000 to 7,000 for first and second line treatment respectively.
Within the framework of the global commitment to ensure universal access of people living with HIV/AIDS to antiretroviral treatment, from May 1, 2007, the government of Cameroon will offer free access to antiretroviral treatment for all people living with HIV/AIDS eligible for this type of treatment and also drugs for opportunistic infections. Second line treatment for HIV/AIDS patients is also free as the Ministry of Public Health is also receiving these drugs free of charge from UNITAID, (the New International Drug Purchase Facility), since Cameroon signed a convention with the Clinton Foundation to get the second-line drugs free of charge. The second-line drugs are being used by HIV/AIDS patients when there is some resistance to the first-line treatment.
HIV screening test has also being harmonised through a circular signed by the Minister of Public Health on September 1st, 2006. HIV screening test for all pregnant women and children from 0-15 years is free. For the rest of the population, the cost of HIV test stands at CFA 500 in all private or public HIV screening units. Before now, the cost of HIV screening in Cameroon ranged between CFA 1,000 to 8,000 depending on the institution where the test is carried out.
Copyright © 2007 Cameroon Tribune.