Today the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) announced a new partnership to improve access to essential pain medications for people living with HIV in Swaziland. As part of ACS' Treat the Pain initiative, this new partnership will help improve efforts to better integrate pain management into HIV/AIDS services throughout the country.
Swaziland has the highest HIV prevalence in the world, with more than 26 percent of adults ages 15-49 infected. Many of these individuals also suffer from AIDS-related opportunistic cancer, such as cervical cancer and Kaposi's sarcoma. Severe pain is common among individuals suffering from HIV and/or cancer, particularly in the final stages of illness. Although access to comprehensive HIV and other clinical services has expanded in recent years, access to pain medication, like morphine, remains very low.
"Pain management is an important, but often overlooked part of comprehensive HIV care and treatment services," said Mohammed Ali Mahdi, M.D., M.P.H., EGPAF's country director for Swaziland. "Our partnership with ACS will strengthen EGPAF's efforts to support comprehensive HIV services and ensure that people infected with HIV have greater access to pain medications that can help improve their quality of life."
Under the new ACS-EGPAF partnership, EGPAF will work with the Swaziland Ministry of Health (MOH) to integrate pain management into health facilities across all four regions of the country. HIV services will serve as a critical entry point for incorporating pain relief protocols and services into comprehensive clinical services.
EGPAF will second a physician to the MOH's palliative care team within the Swaziland National AIDS Program (SNAP). This physician will provide technical assistance and training at hospitals and health facilities. EGPAF will also support efforts to connect MOH and SNAP programs with HIV service providers, community-based initiatives, and other organizations to improve community outreach and education related to HIV and pain management.
"More than 3.2 billion people worldwide lack access to adequate pain treatment even though morphine, which is the most effective treatment for severe pain, is safe, effective, plentiful, inexpensive and easy-to-use," said Meg O'Brien, M.D., American Cancer Society managing director for global cancer treatment. "Treat the Pain is very pleased to embark on this new partnership with EGPAF to address the crisis of untreated pain in Swaziland so that we can help alleviate suffering and improve quality of life for people living with HIV and, in many cases, opportunistic cancer."
EGPAF and ACS have agreed to a two year partnership with options to expand the program after the initial agreement expires. Since 2004, EGPAF has worked with partners, community leaders, and the government of the Kingdom of Swaziland to provide comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment services.