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At a glance: Sao Tome and Principe

ARV initiative brings hope to people living with AIDS in Sao Tome and Principe

© UNICEF/2006/Page
The Brazilian Ministry of Health, with support from UNICEF, is delivering ARVs to Sao Tome and six other partner countries for use by children and adults living with HIV and AIDS.
By John Allison

NEW YORK, USA, 8 May 2006 – Sao Tome and Principe is now offering universal access to antiretroviral medications (ARVs), thanks to a new initiative by an alliance between UNICEF, UNAIDS, the Brazilian Government and seven partner countries.

The objectives of the 'Brazil +7' initiative are to expand HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care for pregnant women and young people, and to offer universal access to ARVs to all people living with AIDS in the partner countries – including Sao Tome and Principe, Bolivia, Paraguay, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor and Nicaragua.

Another key goal of 'Brazil +7' is to ensure universal access to services for prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

“The AIDS pandemic has already mobilized us in a powerful way, but prioritizing pregnant women, children and adolescents will mobilize us even more,” said UNICEF Representative in Brazil Marie-Pierre Poirier. “We want to see each and every child grow and develop with dignity.”

Getting stronger

For Maria, a young woman in Sao Tome, ARVs have strengthened both her body and her spirit. Before taking them she was sick, unable to work and convinced she was going to die. But the vitality she regained after 10 months on the medications has given her a positive outlook.

“People need to be tested for AIDS and need to know that there are medicines that can help them,” she said. “The medicines I take every day have made a big difference, not only physically, but in my mind too. Since I started taking them, my sores have healed, my weight and strength have come back and I feel strong inside.”

© UNICEF Brazil/2005/Bonacini
In Sao Tome and Principe, Maria holds a bottle of her antiretroviral medicine, which has greatly improved her strength and overall health.
Now that she has regained her health, Maria has gone back to earning a living, selling clothes in the shop she owns.

Success in partnerships

'Brazil +7' has helped many people like Maria in the partner countries gain access to the treatment they need. In Guinea-Bissau, antiretroviral treatment is being offered for the first time, and Paraguay has increased the number of people on treatment by nearly 200 per cent. In addition, Sao Tome and Principe was able to launch its first-ever programme to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

The partnerships formed by the initiative have been vital to its success. By joining forces, the partner countries have been able to expand their treatment, counselling and testing programmes. The Brazilian National Programme on STIs/AIDS has been especially vital in delivering ARVs and offering its technical expertise to the other countries.

“The 'Brazil +7' initiative represents a new way of doing business that is driven by partner countries,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Nils Kastberg. The ARV initiative, he added, “is reaching populations such as children and pregnant women who until recently were not typically targeted by national programmes.”

Kent Page and Sabine Dolan contributed to this story.



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