During the early 1990s, the Themba Lethu medical clinic in South Africa was only able to treat patients with HIV/AIDS for opportunistic diseases. A number of them would arrive in wheelchairs and return to the center until they eventually died.
However, now some 20 years later the center is the largest anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment center in South Africa. The clinic sees up to 800 patients each day from all over the continent. Some who arrive in wheelchairs near death get crucial drugs and many times become healthier and are able to walk in weeks.
The Lazarus drug refers to the ARVs because people are able to get up and walk said one of the nurses at the medical clinic that is operated by Right to Care at a hospital in Johannesburg.
The same nurse said they treated a patient who was wheeled in via wheelchair for 1.8 miles so as to not pay a taxi fare. The woman was near death and after two weeks of care, the woman walked home from the clinic.
Deaths in sub-Saharan Africa due to AIDS and related causes have dropped by 32% from a high of 1.8 million during 2005 to just 1.2 million during 2011. Nevertheless, Africa still has more people living with the disease than any other country with a total of 5.6 million and faces continued high rates of new infections and stigma.
The clinic, with help from funding from the South African government, PEP/FAR and USAID, is now just one of more than 2,500 ARC centers in Africa that treat nearly 2 million people.