The New York Times featured MSF in the Small Fixes section Monday with an article about MSF physician Dr. Tom Decroo’s work in Mozambique. Decroo began organizing patients into groups of six to help solve the problem of the growing number of patients across Africa who fail to collect their antiretroviral medicines:
“We went up there and were blown away,” Dr. Kebba Jobarteh, who heads the H.I.V. care and treatment program in Mozambique for the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said after his visit to Tete. “We met five groups. They were amazing. This is a potential game changer for H.I.V.”
MSF began providing antiretroviral drug treatment to AIDS patients in Mozambique in 2003, but feared the patients would not be able to take their medications properly:
Before the expatriate doctors would even prescribe the complicated combination therapy, patients were required to show up on time for eight appointments. For the sickest, poorest patients, the bar was impossibly high. “Before the eight consultations were done they would die,” Dr. Decroo recalled.
The rules for AIDS care have eased greatly since then, but Dr. Decroo became convinced that they needed to change even more. Though more than six million people are on antiretrovirals in developing countries, the United Nations estimates that nine million patients who need them are not getting them.
The article states that the patient groups have eased the load on hospitals and health care workers as well as the stigma on patients:
“If I’m sick and isolated, kept at home, I’m considered a dead body, though still breathing,” Mr. Supinho said. “But when a person is in a group, he feels, ‘I’m sick, but I count.’ ”
Photos: Joao Pina for The New York Times