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AFRO-NETS> HIV/AIDS: Botswana Leads Treatment Initiative

  • Subject: AFRO-NETS> HIV/AIDS: Botswana Leads Treatment Initiative
  • From: Dieter Neuvians MD <neuvians@harare.iafrica.com>
  • Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2000 13:30:34 -0500 (EST)

HIV/AIDS: Botswana Leads Treatment Initiative

Source: UNWire - http://www.unfoundation.org/unwire/unwire.cfm#2

Officials from 24 African nations met with health researchers, drug
company executives and foundation presidents in Boston last week to
discuss the future of AIDS care in their countries and how to bring
Western-style drug treatments to the millions of Africans infected
with HIV/AIDS.

Harvard University, which sponsored the meeting, estimates it will
cost US$ 370 per person per year to provide just basic treatment for
AIDS patients such as testing, counseling, education and care to ease
the pain of dying. Intermediate-level care, which includes prevention
of mother-to-infant transmission of HIV, will run nearly US$ 500. Ad-
vanced care for HIV-infected adults will cost US$ 3,000.

Botswana, which has the world's highest rate of HIV infection, is
leading the initiative to make AIDS drugs more accessible. Botswana
President Festus Mogae met during the talks with officials from the
drug company Merck and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Both in-
stitutions pledged US$ 100 million last summer to help the fight
against AIDS.

"Each one of them said, we will do whatever it takes to make this
initiative successful, we're committed to it. We want it to happen
yesterday," said Richard Marlink, director of the Harvard AIDS Insti-
tute, adding that Botswana serves as a crucial test case. "If it
can't work in Botswana, it's going to be discouraging to have any-
thing happen in places that have less infrastructure, that have less
committed leadership and have much greater populations," he said.

Approximately 36% of Botswana's adults are infected with HIV (UN
Wire, 27 Jun). Mogae says that until recently, AIDS drugs were com-
pletely unaffordable for his country. "We could simply not afford the
prices that had been quoted," he said. "There is, however, a light at
the end of the tunnel."

Mogae added that the offer last May by five pharmaceutical companies
to drastically cut the prices of drugs, along with other aid, is a
good start. Yet he added, "We are not going to be able to start with
the whole of the population, so we are going to start with the pre-
vention of mother-to-child transmission."

Mogae says he hopes Botswana will be engaged in a full-blown program
of Western-style AIDS treatment by the time of the next international
AIDS meeting in the summer of 2002.

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