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Africa: New Commitments on AIDS Treatment

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Nov 7, 2003 (031107)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

Despite footdragging by the Bush administration on full funding both for its own initiative and for multilateral efforts, there has been a recent flurry of announcements of new commitments to treat people with AIDS who lack access to antiretroviral drugs.

Former President Clinton, whose administration first opposed South African efforts to import generic drugs, has announced a new agreement with one South African and three Indian generic drug manufacturers that will reduce prices by almost a third. Clinton Foundation support will enable expanded treatment in South Africa, Mozambique, Uganda, Rwanda, and several Caribbean countries. The World Health Organization is reaffirming plans to provide treatment for 3 million people by 2005. Brazil has announced a bilateral deal to manufacture antiretrovirals in Mozambique. And Canada has introduced legislation that would also allow ramping up exports of generic drugs (though that legislation still has flaws - see note below).

Yet all these efforts not only require time and additional funding to implement, but also face fierce opposition from pharmaceutical industry giants. Recent estimates from UNAIDS say that of 6 million people needing AIDS treatment worldwide, only 5 percent are now receiving the drugs. In Africa, the fraction is only 1 percent, less than 50,000 people of an estimated 5 million needing treatment. The gap between promises and reality of lives actually saved is still enormous.

This issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a variety of updates and action notices on this topic. Please note particularly:

(1) The current fundraising tour of several U.S. cities by Zackie Achmat and Nonkosi Khumalo of South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign. Events are planned next week in New York and the following week in both the Bay Area and Los Angeles. For those in other areas, there is a link to contribute on-line to the TAC.

(2) The call to action for a demonstration in Washington on November 24 - one week before World AIDS Day - from Healthgap and allied groups.

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Treatment Action Campaign (South Africa) U.S. Tour

In November of 2003 two leaders of South Africa's dynamic AIDS activist organization, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) are visiting several U.S. cities. Zackie Achmat, the founder and Chair of the Treatment Action Campaign Nonkosi Khumalo, organizer with TAC's Women's Health Programs, spoke at the Public Welfare Foundation in Washington, DC on November 6.

Other public events on their tour, with contact information, include:

New York

Monday, November 10, 10:30-12:30 PM. GMHC, 119 W. 24th Street, 4th fl., Tel: 212-367-1016

Monday 10, 4-5:30 PM. Columbia University Uptown Health Sciences Campus, Alumni Auditorium, Black Building, 630 W. 168 Street (at Ft. Washington). Tel: 212-305-9539

San Francisco Bay Area

Monday, November 17, 6-8 PM, Sponsored by Priority Africa Network, Laney College Forum, 900 Fallon Street, Oakland CA

For more info on this and other events in the area Tel: 510- 527-4099 or 415-284-7800, ext. 5 or priorityafrica@yahoo.com

Los Angeles

Tuesday Evening, November 18. Public Fundraiser Sponsored by Artists for a New South Africa For complete information, Tel: 310-204-1748 or http://www.ansafrica.org

For more information on the Treatment Action Campaign and to make tax deductible donations, http://www.aidssouthafrica.org


KAISER DAILY HIV/AIDS REPORT
A service of kaisernetwork.org
http://www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv

WHO Needs $9B To Treat Three Million HIV-Positive Individuals With Antiretroviral Drugs by 2005

Access this story and related links online:
http://cme.kff.org/Key=930.FDv.F.D.FKKyfF

The World Health Organization will need up to $9 billion to treat three million HIV-positive individuals in developing countries with antiretroviral drugs by 2005, Paulo Teixeira, director of HIV/AIDS at WHO, said on Thursday, Reuters reports (Reuters, 11/6). WHO Director-General Dr. Jong-Wook Lee on Sept. 22 during a U.N. General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS in New York City announced WHO's commitment to the "three-by-five" plan and declared the lack of access to antiretroviral drugs a global health emergency. The new strategy will use rapid response techniques to deliver antiretroviral treatment and will provide emergency response teams to governments requesting assistance in expediting drug delivery (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/27). The campaign will be launched on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, 2003, in Nairobi, Kenya. According to Teixeira, only 5%, or 300,000, HIV-positive individuals who need antiretroviral drugs currently have access to them. "We are already late," Teixeira said, adding, "We cannot go on waiting for social and economic change in developing countries to tackle this problem." He added, "Our eventual aim is that some day there will be free and universal access to [antiretrovirals] for everyone suffering from HIV and AIDS." The entire campaign will need between $7 billion and $9 billion to accomplish its goal, and WHO will need an additional $200 million in 2004 and 2005 to support its part in the program, according to Teixeira. The reaction from donor countries has been "positive" and there are "signs" that countries will offer support, Teixeira said (Reuters, 11/6).


HEALTHGAP CALL TO ACTION:
PROTEST BUSH IN WASHINGTON, D.C. NOV. 24

For more information, activist organizing materials, updates and other resources: see http://www.healthgap.org/WAD.html

A WORLD AIDS DAY CALL TO ACTION from ACT UP Philadelphia, ACT UP New York, Africa Action, Housing Works, Student Global AIDS Campaign, CHAMP, African Services Committee, Health GAP, Prevention Point Philadelphia, New York City AIDS Housing Network, the American Medical Students Association, and the AIDS Policy Project

TAKE ACTION ONE WEEK BEFORE WORLD AIDS DAY AND SEND A MESSAGE TO THE WHITE HOUSE

There will be 100 million people living with HIV by the end of the decade--but according to UNAIDS, the AIDS crisis is only in its infancy.

Join hundreds of people living with HIV and their loved ones in a powerful protest at the White House in Washington DC on MONDAY, NOVEMBER 24. We will step off from McPherson Square (15th and K Sts., NW) at 12 noon.

Why protest?

  • Protest because President Bush lied when he told our nation during his State of the Union Address, that "we have confronted, and will continue to confront, HIV/AIDS in our own country,² and he lied when he said the U.S. government will "respond as generously as we can² in fighting AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and around the world:
  • In fact, President Bush is allowing people with HIV right here in the United States to die because they cannot afford to overpriced AIDS medicines
  • Bush claims to want to cut new HIV infections in the U.S. in half, from 40,000 to 20,000 people, but he is refusing to fund the comprehensive HIV prevention programs that would achieve this ambitious HIV prevention goal.
  • Bush is _increasing_ HIV prevention funding to unproven, misleading "abstinence-only" HIV prevention programs targeting people at high risk of HIV infection such as young people and low income women, even though these programs forbid educators from providing facts about condom use (see: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/usa0902/).
  • President Bush is aggressively blocking full funding of the cash-strapped Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, even though it is the only multilateral program that is up and running and saving lives now.
  • Bush is fighting alongside the greedy pharmaceutical industry for new so called "free trade" deals--including the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the Southern African Customs Union--that will stifle access to cheap, generic medicines in poor countries.
  • President Bush would rather spend $4 billion for a month of occupation in Iraq, than spend the full $3 billion in 2004 that was authorized by Congress and that is the _minimum_ needed from the U.S. next year alone to prevent 8500 daily unnecessary AIDS deaths.
  • Protest because President Bush is putting reactionary and arch-conservative values before vital HIV/AIDS services and research in the United States and around the world.
  • Bush Administration officials are targeting renowned scientists doing federally funded research involving gay people, sex workers, and injection drug users, setting off a chill among scientists who thought their work was separate from the realm of dirty politics.
  • Bush is presiding over witch hunts targeting AIDS service organizations that have criticized Bush AIDS policies, that support comprehensive sexuality education, and that serve sexually active gay men. These witch hunts have taken the form of endless audits and harassment, although none of these organizations have never been found to have violated any federal law.
  • The Bush Administration's implementation of the "Global Gag Rule" is undermining vital HIV prevention efforts targeting women and children in some of the hardest hit nations in the world (see http://64.224.182.238/globalgagrule).

For all these reasons, and many more, please join efforts for this demonstration to demand justice for people living with HIV/AIDS--in the United States and around the world.

After so many deadly lies and distortions from the President and the Administration, isn't it time to bring your anger to the White House?

HOW YOU CAN HELP MAKE THIS DAY OF ACTION A SUCCESS:

--Be in Washington DC on Nov. 24: help organize your community, family, agency staff, clients, co-workers, or support group to be a part of this protest. Ask people to take off work, cancel appointments, give your staff the day off, do lunch at the protest, and be in Washington DC on November 24.

--Donate: many of the organizations working on this protest are low budget community organizations. Your contribution will go a long way toward ensuring that people on the front lines in the struggle for justice make it to Washington to demand change. About $1000 pays for the cost of one bus of 47 low income people, including food, tolls, gas and tip.

--Spread the word: write a letter to the editor objecting to Bush's AIDS lies in your local paper: for background materials and sample letters, see http://www.healthgap.org/WAD.html

--Work together: organizers in Philadelphia, New York City, Washington DC and Baltimore can help you plan events in your community to help get the word out and mobilize people for this event. Give us a call!

For information regarding transportation from Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York City, as well as local organizing efforts in Washington DC, contact:

In Philadelphia: Asia Russell at (267) 475-2645 or asia@critpath.org In Manhattan: (212) 222-3882 extension 115; in Brooklyn: (718) 802-9540 or info@healthgap.org In Washington DC: Beth Pelletieri at (202) 210-8313 or bethp@gwu.edu


Bill C-56 bill on medicines for developing countries is flawed The House of Commons should amend the bill and get it right

7 November 2003

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network /
Reseau juridique canadien VIH/sida

For more information: Richard Elliott, Tel :(416) 595-1666; email: relliott@AIDSLAW.CA Media contact: Elana Wright, (514) 397-6828 ext. 259

For additional information, including a backgrounder and other materials on the issue of the Patent Act amendment, see: http://www.aidslaw.ca

TORONTO - The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network called today on all parties in the House of Commons to ensure that Bill C-56 is amended before it is passed. The Network said that, if necessary, this means they should take additional time to address the serious flaws in the bill, rather than making mistakes by acting too hastily.

The bill is intended to amend the Patent Act by allowing generic pharmaceutical companies to make lower-cost medicines for export to developing countries to deal with their public health problems. But as currently drafted, Bill C-56 provides that a brand-name pharmaceutical company has the right to take over a contract that a generic manufacturer has negotiated with a developing country. If they do so, the generic manufacturer cannot get a licence to make the medicine and export it.

"This leaves generic companies unable to fulfil contracts they negotiate with developing countries, and removes any incentive for them to even bother negotiating contracts in the first place," said Richard Elliott, Director, Legal Research & Policy. "As a result, developing countries cannot effectively give licences to generic manufactures to make their cheaper medicines. This means we won't actually end up seeing lower prices, from either generic companies or brand-name companies. Developing countries won't see the benefit that this bill is supposed to deliver."

The Legal Network also rejected as inaccurate any claim that WTO rules require this approach that is currently found in Bill C-56. In a decision reached at the end of August, all WTO member countries agreed to relax patent rules so that "compulsory licences" could be issued to generic companies, allowing them to make lower-cost medicines for developing countries. "The WTO rules do not impose this as a requirement for this type of legislation," said Elliott. "What WTO rules require is that the brand-name company holding the patent gets to either negotiate the terms of a voluntary licence that it gives to a generic company, or the Commissioner of Patents can issue a compulsory licence to the generic company and fix the terms. Under WTO rules, Canada is not required to give brand-name companies this extra opportunity block any licence for a generic company at all."

"The government has taken the important step of introducing this bill," said Richard Elliott, Director of Legal Research & Policy. "We fully support this initiative, and have been calling on the government to take this sort of step for years. But the legislation as drafted is seriously flawed, and the government risks undermining its own very worthy initiative."


Mozambique, Uganda To Get New AIDS Drug Factories


November 6, 2003

UN WIRE http://www.unwire.org

The effort to increase the accessibility of antiretroviral drugs in Africa, where infection rates run as high as 30 percent in some places, got a boost yesterday from two sources - a pledge from Brazil to build an AIDS drug plant in Mozambique and a Ugandan company's proposal to manufacture antiretrovirals.

During a visit to Mozambique, which has an HIV infection rate of 16 percent, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said yesterday his country would "produce antiretroviral drugs here ... in the shortest possible time." He gave no specific timetable for construction. The Mozambique plant will be one of three AIDS drug plants that Brazil will build in Africa.

Brazil, which has successfully manufactured cheap AIDS drugs and boasts an infection rate of less than 1 percent, is in a unique position to lend support to the HIV/AIDS campaign in Africa.

Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano welcomed the pledge. "The fight against HIV/AIDS is one of the greatest challenges to us and we are confident that Brazil's ... rich experience in this regard will be a valuable contribution to our struggle against the epidemic," he said
(BBC, Nov. 5 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa>).

In Uganda, the Kampala-based company Quality Chemicals, which has been importing generic antiretrovirals from an Indian-based company for several months, announced yesterday it intends to set up a factory before 2005 to produce antiretrovirals. The drugs would cost users less than 50 cents per day.

"We are working closely with the Ministry of Health and [the] Uganda AIDS Commission to have this facility in place," company director Emmanuel Katongole told
<http://www.irinnews.org> Integrated Regional Information Networks yesterday. "We should be able to find a way."

But AIDS activists have said the claim is too ambitious. "There are a lot of things that have to be done before you can start producing drugs in a factory," said Rosette Mutambi, of the Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development. "I don't see how they will get this up so fast. I suspect this is partly a publicity exercise for the company."

"In the meantime, we need to look at getting our hands on cheaper drugs and more of them," she added.

Uganda, where an estimated 100,000 people are living with AIDS, has already seen some improvements in the procurement of antiretrovirals. Funds contributed by the
<http://www.clintonpresidentialcenter.com> Clinton Foundation are expected to help reduce the price of a year's treatment to as little as $120, while the Ugandan government recently committed itself to actively pursuing the importation of generic antiretrovirals (IRIN, Nov. 6).


AfricaFocus Bulletin is a free independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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