Social Issues / South Africa And The Aids Epidemic

South Africa And The Aids Epidemic

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Autor:  anton  27 April 2011
Tags:  Africa,  Epidemic
Words: 1297   |   Pages: 6
Views: 339

South Africa and the Aids Epidemic

Political Chaos and Denial among the responsible … Where is the South African Government?…And what about the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers?... There is no surprise for the US reaction…

Nowhere in the world is the HIV/AIDS epidemic more widespread than the continent of Africa. For South Africa, political disturbance and government denial has fed an epidemic that has reached catastrophic proportions. As the numbers of infected and dead continue to rise, the impact on the people of South Africa and the entire world is growing.

South Africa’s past is tainted with apartheid. The HIV/AIDS epidemic emerged in South African around 1982. However, the country had bigger problems caused by racial horrors, so the HIV problem was for the most part ignored. Mainly because of the slow reaction of the government the disease spread and by the mid-90s, HIV rates had increased by 60 percent and became a public health disaster.

Corruption and poor oversight have undermined South Africa's fight against HIV/ Aids. A five-year HIV/AIDS plan outlined in 2000 by the South African Department of Health got little support from South African President Thabo Mbeki. After consulting a group of scientists, Mbeki rejected conventional HIV science and instead blamed the growing AIDS epidemic on poverty. He was saying that prostitutes, migrant laborers, the ill-educated, and victims of sexual abuse are more likely to be infected by HIV. This statement was maybe not totally wrong since it mentioned a group of people that have a higher mortality rate across the board. But his stand had an impact on the whole health system and it certainly hurt all the efforts of the medical circle, because he was questioning the link between HIV and AIDS, a popular argument made by the Aids denialists.

Today, experts around the world believe that a combination of political unrest, poor government support and political denial has inflamed HIV and Aids in South Africa.

Like many countries with an out-of-control HIV problem, South Africa's economic, racial, and ethnic diversity makes prevention and HIV education very difficult.

South African government should launch a prevention campaign targeting young people, with hotlines, HIV clinics, youth centers and health clinics. This project would need the government’s focus and support especially after the launch since it requires financial and human resources, where there is a shortage of both.

Most infected South Africans do not get the HIV care they need. The vast majority of HIV-infected people are poor and their only chance at care is the government-sponsored public health sector. Unfortunately, public health care resources are scarce. There is little or no access to quality medical care, HIV testing, or, most importantly, HIV medications. South African government should pursue a campaign which recognizes the importance of regular HIV care and provide basic HIV medications to those in need.

Since the introduction of HIV medications, people are now living long, productive lives despite their HIV infection. Unfortunately, the cost of HIV medications is an obstacle for the poor and many African nations still can't afford to treat their citizens.

While manufacturers claim patents on all HIV medications and with that claim offer unaffordable drugs, companies in other parts of the world offer generic versions for far less. Major manufactures in the U.S. want to block generics from being offered, claiming patent rights. To circumvent the debate, African officials are ready to declare a national emergency, paving the way to receive unauthorized generics from other, smaller manufacturers.

American companies hold the patents on the HIV medicines. Most people in most African countries can't afford to buy the drugs at these prices, so they buy them on the black market, in violation of the U.S. patents and international treaties. The pharmaceutical manufacturers ask the U.S. government to enforce the patent treaties... and they have power over the government. The pharmaceutical companies play big role in campaign finance and their support gets many members of the House of Representatives elected. There are serious consequences for poor African nations if U.S. Department of Commerce puts them on a watch list. That will be the first step towards trade sanctions and American Congress could end all aid to these countries.

While discussions continue between pharmaceutical manufacturers and South African governments, even the public is torn apart. Some show understanding for the drug companies, but humanitarian groups all around the world carry the flag of the affected nations.

The supporters of the argument made by the pharmaceuticals have certain comments:

“Drug companies are rightfully trying to protect their patents. The patent system was designed to give companies incentive to spend tremendous amounts of money on research and development. A drug company, that spend 200 millionUSD in development on a drug, is not going to watch in silence another company copying it, in effect losing the 200 million investment. What will be the purpose to innovate?”

“They say, the pills cost them four cents a unit to make. You know that's not true. The second pill cost them four cents; the first pill cost them four hundred million dollars!”

“The emotions behind this issue are so strong, I believe, that a lot of people are failing to understand the basic economics behind the drug development process. While the tragedy in Africa may be of epic proportions, responding by condemning the drug companies for attempting to protect their intellectual property is not the answer. Let's not lose sight of the real enemy here. It's not the drug companies. It's HIV.”

The humanitarian aid groups are ready to oppose:

“Don’t say R&D is expensive. These companies enjoy unprecedented tax breaks, foreign tax credits, research and experimentation exemptions, and expensing of research expenditures. To say nothing of the fact that business is pretty good, so they're going to cover their butt.”

“If the drug companies refuse to make the treatment available to most of the people who need it -- then the problem is the drug companies. I understand that 2/3 of pharmaceutical companies' expenses associated with these drugs are related to marketing and advertising. Who the hell needs aggressive marketing for HIV drugs -- something that people around the world are begging for?”

“Having done the initial research, the drug companies are entitled to stay in business. When human lives are at stake, they are NOT entitled to make enormous profits beyond that level. It is true that the global marketplace is driven by economics, not humanitarian values. THAT is the problem!”

“In most cases I agree and try to trust our laws. But when it comes to trying to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, and treating those who need some medication we should bend some rules. The drug companies have already made enough money, they can afford to take a little vacation.”

As of late, governments, advocacy groups and even drug manufacturers are making drugs more affordable for those who can't afford them.

While these price cuts may make the drugs more affordable for state sponsored programs, AIDS agencies and other charities trying to help, the drugs will still not be cheap enough for most of the hardest hit countries.

How does the international trade regime affect the epidemic in Africa?

The answer to that question is in the two paragraphs from an article written by Nanjakululu, a policy and advocacy officer at the Agency for Cooperation in Research and Development (ACORD) from Nairobi, Kenya.

…“The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the place where these rules are written. But of the 38 African nations who belong to the WTO, 15 nations have no representative at all at the headquarters in Geneva. In contrast, most rich nations have dozens of staff to protect their trading interests.”…

…”African governments and other global development actors serious about helping Africa should advocate for fair trade to help the continent pay its own bills. HIV/Aids should be treated as a development issue rather than just a health issue.”…

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