The Government of Côte d’Ivoire has signalled its commitment to stop people being charged for accessing HIV testing and treatment services, declaring that it will strictly apply previously announced decisions to prevent people living with or affected by HIV being asked to pay user fees.
A note circulated by the Ministry of Health has reminded all service providers that costs for HIV testing and treatment services should not be charged to people accessing those services. The directive applies for all services for pregnant and breastfeeding women, all HIV testing services, tests for viral load suppression and the prescription of antiretroviral medicines for people living with HIV.
The directive also reminds service providers that children under the age of 15 years should have free access to health services and that young women aged 15–24 years should have free access to primary health care, HIV testing and family planning services.
In several countries, the issue of user fees has been identified as a major barrier to testing people for HIV, to treating people living with HIV and to retaining people in treatment and care.
The renewed commitment of Côte d’Ivoire to confront the issue of user fees followed discussions between the President of Côte d'Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, and the former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, who visited the country in March in his capacity as Chairperson of the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa.
Following their discussions, the government also announced its intention to increase domestic funding for the AIDS response by US$ 10 million in the next budget.
During his meeting with the President, Mr Mogae congratulated Mr Ouattara and the First Lady, Dominique Ouattara, for their personal commitment to ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030. Ms Ouattara is UNAIDS Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission and the Promotion of Paediatric Treatment of HIV.
At the conclusion of his mission, Mr Mogae underlined the importance of accelerating the response to the epidemic. “We cannot be complacent and allow the huge improvements that we have made so far to be lost. If we stop now, we will lose everything we have already invested and achieved. The entire nation must be mobilized to ensure that no one is left behind,” he said.
There were 500 000 people living with HIV in Côte d’Ivoire in 2017, with around 46% accessing HIV treatment.