The Africanists

Insights. Comments. Thoughts. Analysis. Africa.

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A crisis is emerging in the fight against Aids

A crisis is emerging in Africa in the fight against HIV because of increasing resistance to the most commonly used antiretroviral(ARV) drugs. “The problem is very serious. In our hospital we see more and more patients who after several years of treatment develop resistance to the medicine against the HIV virus”, says internist Furaha Lyamuya. He works at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC), a regional referral hospital in Moshi, a small Tanzanian town at the foot of the Kilimanjaro. “In the hospital we can only see the tip of the iceberg. In the countryside there is fear, because many patients have already died because of the failure of antiretroviral therapy.”

The experience with the failing antiretroviral therapy in KCMC is confirmed in a study conducted in 36 countries between 1998 and 2015. Based on that research, the medical journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases(May 2016 issue)  publishes an important article about increasing resistance to one of the most widely used antiretroviral, tenofovir.

Co-author of that article is the Dutch fellow infectious diseases Raph Hamers, affiliated with the Department of Global Health of the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam. He is stationed at KCMC for several months as part of his research on HIV therapy resistance in Africa. “Treatment fails in one out of five HIV patients in Africa, and in six out of ten of them it is because the virus has become resistant to tenofovir.”

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Albinos:tortured by the sun and hunted in the shade


The Maasai boy Molle in 2009

The Maasai boy Molle in 2014

The Maasai boy Molle in 2009 and in 2014

A long high wall shields students of the elementary school Mwerereni from the cruel world outside. It is necessary because 35 out of its 620 student population are albinos. “That wall protects us from witchdoctors who want to chop albinos into body parts,” says the school Principal Damas Urengi in the Tanzanian town of Moshi. “Otherwise our children may fall prey to ritual sacrifice.”

Blind pupils, albinos and children with other serious skin diseases shuffle cautiously along the neatly swept paths under young trees. A special building equipped with screens that shield them from the pernicious bright light of the sun gives them solace. Bryan is an albino. Nurse Rose examines him in the school’s clinic. “There is nothing going on with you, you just ate too much,” she laughs. “We give our students extra care. And we teach them to love each other,” she explains. “So they will later become our ambassadors in a world full of hatred and superstition.”

For many albinos Africa is a curse; tortured by the sun and hunted in the shade. Because of their lack of skin pigmentation, which protects against ultraviolet rays, they quickly get skin cancer. The bright light cuts like a knife into their eyes. In Tanzania for instance, only 2 percent of albinos do grow older than forty years. A nurse at a clinic in Moshi says that since 2008, the dermatology department has surgically removed 500 deadly tumours from albinos.The hospital now provides free sunscreen.

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Son ignores family and hangs out with Neighbours…

Kenya’s greatest, most famous and popular expatriate, American President Barack Obama is on his first major African tour. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on which section and tribal affiliation you belong to in this powerful East African Country he won’t even make a stopover for some Lake Victoria Tilapia in his Fatherland.
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