Free antiretroviral therapy had significantly reduced mortality in rural Malawi , a study published in the latest Lancet journal has shown.
Malawi, which records about 80 000 deaths from AIDS every year, made free ARV therapy available to more than 80 000 patients between 2004 and 2006.
The researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine investigated the mortality in a population before and after the introduction of free ARVs, in turn measuring the effects of such programmes on survival rates in the population.
Researchers measured the mortality in a population of 32 000 in northern Malawi, from August 2002 when free ARV therapy was not available in the district, until February 2006, eight months after an ARV clinic was opened.
Comparisons revealed that overall mortality rates among adults had declined by 10 percent . This equalled nine deaths averted in an eight-month observation period after the introduction of ARVs. Mortality decreased by 35 percent in adults near the district’s main road, where death rates before antiretroviral therapy was highest.
The study is important as real, practical evidence showing the effect of untreated HIV/AIDS on populations in African countries is limited. The evidence presented up to now was mostly validated through modeling.
Researchers set up a continuous demographic surveillance system in 2002 with an initial house-to-house census to record data.
Within each cluster identified one village informant was trained to record and report births, deaths and migrations.
A new census of the total population held two years after the start of the study showed that the informants had registered 516 of 521 deaths and 1 540 of 1 588 births and most of the migrations.
Implementation of antiretroviral therapy across Malawi continues to accelerate. Researchers believe this will lead to a continuing decrease in population mortality rates. ‘ Health-e News Service.