Africa: IRIN HIV/AIDS Weekly issue 30, 8 June

Report
from IRIN
Published on 08 Jun 2001
1. News
KENYA: Make or break time for Kenyan HIV/AIDS drugs legislation

Hot on the heels of South Africa's legal victory against the drugs giants Kenya is the next African country to take on big pharma as it seeks to push through legislation allowing the importation of cheap drugs in an effort to combat its HIV/AIDS epidemic, ActionAid said on Tuesday.

It is campaigning for the adoption of a bill placed before the Kenyan parliament on Tuesday to enable the government to buy generic drugs. ActionAid, as a lead member of a Kenyan anti-AIDS coalition, is also gearing up to help the Kenyan ministry of health deliver a comprehensive package of care to its people, including triple combination antiretroviral therapy, the development NGO said.

ActionAid-Kenya's HIV/Aids co-ordinator Dr Chris Ouma, said: "I am pleading with Kenyan MPs to take full advantage of safeguards afforded under international patent law to push through the right to introduce cheap high quality drugs to the country. And I call on the international community to put pressure on the pharmaceutical giants to act fairly. All this legislation does is allow us the same leeway that Europe and the States already enjoy, but which Kenya and Africa are denied."

He added: "It is imperative that this drugs patent legislation goes through. Without it we cannot undertake the essential first steps that will allow control of the epidemic. If this legislation fails or is even delayed, increasing numbers of Kenyans will die needlessly horrific deaths. We shouldn't't put money for drugs companies before people's lives."

Contact:

Jane Moyo, Media Relations officer, ActionAid-London, +44 207 561 7614 Dr Chris Ouma, HIV/Aids coordinator, ActionAid-Nairobi, +2542 440444

BOTSWANA: Diamond giant leads the way

Botswana's giant diamond company Debswana has announced that all companies wishing to do business with it will be required to support the firm's progressive HIV/AIDS policy, the 'Botswana Gazette' reported.

"The companies will be responsible for providing a safe working environment both physically and mentally through empowering their employees with knowledge to avoid risks and protect themselves from contracting HIV/AIDS," explained Debswana's spokesman Jacob Sesinyi. The companies will have to demonstrate that they have a work place policy and programme on HIV and AIDS both at the home base company and on site at the Debswana premises which includes a statement on non discrimination based on HIV status, confidentiality and privacy, the ability to work and criteria for ill-health retirement.

Meanwhile, Botswana is to provide free antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), President Festus Mogae announced on Monday. "We have not yet started the full antiretroviral programme, but we hope it will be running by the end of the year," Mogae told reporters.

The diamond-rich country has already begun handing out free drugs to prevent HIV-positive pregnant mothers passing the virus to their unborn children, AFP reported. "We have been told we have a good chance of prevention in the majority of cases," Mogae said. He added that a campaign would be launched soon for people to adopt Botswana's 60,000 to 80,000 AIDS orphans, with the government paying for the childrens' upbringing, AFP reported.

SOUTH AFRICA: Still no to ARVs

By contrast, South Africa has no plans to provide ARVs, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang told parliament on Tuesday. She said her ministry's position remained unchanged, even though pharmaceutical companies dropped a law suit against the government in April, allowing it to import or manufacture cheap versions of the drugs, AFP reported.

"We have no plans to introduce the wholesale administration of these drugs in the public sector," the minister said. "ARVs are not a cure for AIDS.In addition, the department remained concerned about the toxicity of the drugs, the availability of laboratory services, and "infrastructural and educational constraints", particularly in rural areas, she said.

"I would, however, like to assure this house that this position is not ideological," the minister said. "Obviously we will continue to explore all the options available to us." Tshabalala-Msimang also failed on Tuesday to give an expected go-ahead to South Africa's nine provinces to launch programmes using Nevirapine to reduce mother-to-infant HIV transmission. She confirmed that 18 sites had been identified countrywide "within a research framework" intended to answer questions related to drug resistance and toxicity, but did not say when the programmes would start.

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Business grapples with AIDS

HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria should be considered part of the investment risk equation in the region but should not be reasons not to do business, Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano told the Southern African Economic Summit held in Durban, South Africa this week. IPS reported that he was backed by major Southern African companies which themselves are addressing the spread of AIDS in the workforce with programmes that, in some case, are ahead of national governments' efforts.

Mining companies, for example, have launched aggressive awareness and prevention campaigns. Mines in South Africa employ around 500,000 workers, who support as many as five million people across the Southern African region. About half the workers employed in South Africa's gold mines come from neighbouring countries and nearly 30 percent of them are living with HIV and AIDS, said the president of the South African Chamber of Mines, Rick Menell.

Most miners live in single-sex hostels in or near South African cities. At first, they had been forced to do this by the former apartheid government, which had sought to contain the influx of black Africans. Now, most of the workers prefer to keep, and visit, their families in good homes and to provide for them as best they can from the hostels. Because of this bachelor lifestyle, many are exposed to HIV and AIDS through, among other things, contact with sex workers. Goldfields, one of South Africa's biggest gold producers, provides workers with three free condoms a week. Every three months or so, the company holds concerts, sports events and rallies, opportunities to warn workers about the dangers of HIV-AIDS and to educate them on prevention.

ZIMBABWE: New board for troubled AIDS council

Zimbabwe's Minister of Health Timothy Stamps announced this week that a new board for the National Aids Council would be appointed soon after President Robert Mugabe approves the proposed 14-member team, the 'Daily News' reported.

The previous board, chaired by Gordon Chavunduka, was dissolved in March after it was accused of being improperly constituted and too slow in establishing a secretariat to oversee the disbursement of funds to AIDS organisations throughout the country.

ETHIOPIA: WFP organises HIV/AIDS awareness training for truck drivers

The UN World Food Programme has begun a series of innovative training sessions for its contracted truck drivers in Ethiopia to raise their awareness on HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (STD). The training is aimed at some 2,300 truck drivers contracted by WFP to move relief food from the Port of Djibouti to warehouses and distribution sites within Ethiopia, the agency said in a statement. The truck drivers are to be trained on risk reduction and prevention methods.

Although everyone can be vulnerable to the HIV virus, some groups because of the nature of their work are at greater risk than others. This includes truck drivers who in most cases work away from their families for long periods of time and are presented with opportunities for high-risk sexual behaviour. UNAIDS estimates that 10.6 percent of the population of Ethiopia is HIV-positive. In the capital, Addis Ababa, the infection rate is even higher.

The drivers, who are employed by companies under contract to WFP, will have a two-hour training session in a classroom setting. The sessions will be conducted by the local NGO ISAPSO (Integrated Service for AIDS Prevention and Support Organisation) in the towns of Nazareth and Kombolcha which are two main hubs the truck drivers pass through as they proceed to their final destinations.

Contact:

Wagdi Othman, WFP Information Officer/Ethiopia Tel: +251-1 515 188, +251-9 201 976

AFRICA: Global fund to concentrate on prevention

A proposed new multi-billion dollar global health fund is expected to concentrate on AIDS prevention rather than the mass purchase of antiretroviral drugs, a UN conference in Geneva reportedly concluded on Monday.

Britain's 'Financial Times' said that the planned fund is likely to be formally launched later this month at the UN's General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS or at the Group of Eight meeting in Genoa in July. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan wants to raise US $7-10 billion annually, but according to the 'Financial Times', the "war chest" is likely to receive only around US $1 billion this year. This week, Britain pledged around US $100 million, following an earlier US $200 million contribution by Washington.

Governments and aid agencies have been split over whether the money should be used for the purchase of antiretroviral drugs. However, David Nabarro, executive director at the office of Gro Harlem Brundtland, director-general of the World Health Organisation, said there had been "an extraordinary degree of convergence" during the conference. He said it was agreed that the fund should concentrate on AIDS prevention, with a limited and carefully-targeted amount of drug treatment for AIDS sufferers. Nabarro estimated that 70-80 percent of the fund would be used to combat AIDS, with the remainder used for the prevention and treatment of malaria and tuberculosis. But delegates said the Geneva conference was marked by continued conflict over the administration of the fund, which has been proposed in various forms by Japan, Italy and the UK.

For more details: http://news.ft.com/ft/gx.cgi/ftc?pagename=View&c=Article&cid=FT371JCMKNC&liv e=true&useoverridetemplate=ZZZ99ZVV70C&tagid=ZZZINS5VA0C&subheading=middle%2 0east%20and%20africa

Meanwhile, Annan addressed over 500 members of the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington last Friday in an appeal to the business community for help in the global fight against AIDS, which he described as an "unparalleled nightmare."

"As 42 percent of US exports go to markets in the developing world," he argued, "the negative impact of AIDS on American business should be obvious." The epidemic is not only bad for business, he said, but also undermines regional and global security and stability. He called on business to respond, saying, "business is used to acting decisively and quickly. The same cannot always be said of the community of sovereign states. We need your help - right now."

He urged business to help his effort to raise spending on fighting the disease by an additional US $7 billion to US $10 billion a year. Harvard University estimates that AIDS has already cost the world more than US $500 billion, he argued, so, he added, "US $10 billion a year to defeat it seems fairly reasonable - in fact, a bargain."

Last Friday, Annan appointed Stephen Lewis as his Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. Lewis, who served as Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF from 1995-1999, and is a former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations, will be responsible for ensuring follow-up to April's African summit on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases held in Abuja, Nigeria, and next month's UN General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS, as related to Africa.

AFRICA: Consultation on stigma and HIV/AIDS

A three day consultation on stigma and HIV/AIDS began in Tanzania on Monday. The aim of the meeting was to identify concrete research priorities in order to better understand and address the problem of stigma. Attended by around 75 people, mainly from Eastern and Southern Africa, the consultation is part of a collaborative project between Health & Development Networks (HDN) and UNAIDS, with support from Swedish SIDA.

To read the daily reports, please go to www.hdnet.org and follow the links for the Stigma consultation.

AFRICA: Pfizer offers free drugs to poor countries

United States pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced on Wednesday that it would provide unlimited supplies of the drug Diflucan free of charge to treat HIV/AIDS sufferers in 50 of the world's poorest countries. "This is a lifetime of work not just a one-day press release," Dr Henry McKinnell, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer, said at UN headquarters. "We will continue to work with the UN, the WHO and other international organisations on how public/private partnerships like the Diflucan programme can be most effective."

Diflucan is the brand name of an anti-fungal drug used to treat cryptococcal meningitis, a life-threatening infection of the brain which afflicts about one in ten AIDS patients in the late stage of the disease. The mortality rate of those suffering from untreated meningitis is more than 90 percent, Pfizer said. The 50 least-developed countries to benefit from the offer are home to about 12 million AIDS sufferers. Pfizer is already providing South Africa with a two year supply of Diflucan which McKinnell said was worth about US $50 million. To date, 185 institutions in South Africa have begun to distribute medicine through the programme.

For more details: http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/sa/countrystories/other/20010607.phtml

2. Links

Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD)

The Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD) at the University of Natal has resources covering the economic and social impact of HIV/AIDS. http://www.und.ac.za/und/heard/

AIDS Foundation of South Africa

Details of South African community programmes and information on HIV/AIDS can be found at the Web site of the AIDS Foundation of South Africa: http://www.aids.org.za/

NAPWA congress

South Africa's National Association of People Living with AIDS met for their first congress on 25-27 May in Johannesburg. For full details of the resolutions, contact:

NAPWA National Office Tel: + 27 11 872-0975 Fax: + 27 11 872-1343

UNAIDS Factsheet on AIDS at 20

http://www.unaids.org/fact_sheets/files/AIDStwenty_en.html

Globalisation, Patents and Drugs

Treatment-Access has released the second edition of its "Globalisation, Patents and Drugs - An annotated bibliography". The bibliography aims to inform people in the health sector, with no particular legal background, about the impact of globalisation and trade agreements on access to drugs. Copies can be obtained free of charge from:

The Documentation Centre, Department of Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy, World Health Organisation, 20 Avenue Appia, CH-1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland. Tel: + 41 22 791 3521, Fax: + 41 22 791 4167, e-mail: edmdoccentre@who.int

The document is also available on the Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy web site: http://www.who.int/medicines/ then click on "EDM document list" where documents are listed in alphabetical order.

3. Conferences/Research

Easing the burden of HIV on child health services in Africa

How are hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) coping with the large number of children infected with HIV? Can hospital staff deal with the increasing workload? What can hospitals in the developed world do to help? Researchers from the Mwanza Centre for Primary Health Care, Tanzania and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine examined the impact of the HIV pandemic on children's health services in SSA. Low staff morale, drug shortages and lack of trained personnel are major problems. International help is essential to cope with the crisis. However, in order to be effective, all interventions efforts must be co-ordinated by local agencies.

For more details: http://www.id21.org/health/h5it1g2.html

Source: id21

How are African hospitals coping with the rising burden of HIV?

How is the HIV/AIDS epidemic affecting healthcare systems in developing countries? Can existing services cope? Two-thirds of people infected with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa. Research by the UK Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine has examined the effect of high HIV prevalence on healthcare services in Kenya and South Africa.

For more details: http://www.id21.org/health/h5cg1g3.html

source: id21

AIDS and poverty in Africa

Was AIDS in Africa hijacked by an extreme behavioralist explanation? Were ideas of racial difference used to ask questions about Africans instead of AIDS? How would the fight against AIDS look different if we asked 'How is AIDS different in Africa' instead? Have we ignored the impacts of poverty & malnutrition on the spread of the disease? How can we do better in the next 10 years than we have in the past? What will happen in Latin America and Asia if we don't? Eileen Stillwaggon looks at these questions in 'Drum Role'. http://www.comminit.com/TheDrumRole/sld-1992.html

Proteins in African HIV strains interact

Naturally-occurring genetic variations in HIV-A and HIV-C, the two subtypes of HIV prevalent in Africa, make it harder for inhibitory drugs to bind to the protease, a key protein involved in viral maturation, AIDS Weekly reported scientists from Johns Hopkins University as saying.

For details: http://ww2.aegis.org/pubs/aidswkly/2001/AW010603.html

source: AEGiS

HIV/AIDS and rural development: What can we do?

The Sector Network Rural Development (SNRD) is comprised of representatives from different GTZ-supported rural development projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. A workshop, titled "HIV/AIDS and Rural Development: what can we do?", took place in Harare, Zimbabwe, from 2-5 April.

The Executive Summary (12 pages, Adobe PDF format, 62 kb) of the workshop is available for downloading from the AFRO-NETS server at: http://www.afronets.org (click 'AFRO-NETS related Documents') or download directly from: http://www.afronets.org/docs/snrd-aids.pdf

Study of adolescent health-seeking behaviour in Nigeria

Recently, the Women's Health and Action Research Center based in Nigeria, conducted a study aimed at understanding the pattern of health seeking behaviour for sexually transmitted diseases among in-schools adolescents in Mid-Western Nigeria.

For more information and materials on the project, contact:

The Adolescent Health and STD/HIV Prevention Project Office Women's Health and Action Research Centre Tel: +234 52 600151, 602334 E-mail: wharc@warri.rcl.nig.com

source: Nigeria-AIDS

Women's NGO networks for health in Nigeria

A new publication "Women's NGO Networks in Nigeria: Providing Reproductive Health Information and Services; Promoting Reproductive Rights" documents the significant contributions of women's NGO networks in Nigeria that provide reproductive health information and services and/or promote reproductive rights. The study demonstrates the important role that women's NGO networks have played and continue to play in addressing the needs of Nigerian women and their families. The publication is available in hardback and can also be found in PDF format on the Networks website.

Email: slee@ngonetworks.org NGO Networks for Health: http://www.ngonetworks.org

source: Nigeria-AIDS

Youth and Adolescents Reproductive Health Project, Cameroon

Action Research geared towards Reproductive Health of Young People - A Basic Course (1-22 August) aims to equip participants with expertise that will allow them to design approaches suitable for young people, and thus help this vulnerable group avoid infections, unwanted pregnancies and sexual violence. http://www.comminit.com/events_cal/2001/43-event.html

[ENDS]

IRIN AIDS Weekly Tel: +27-11 880 4633 Fax: +27-11 880 1421 E-Mail: aids@irin.org.za

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