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Botswana to Implement AIDS Drug Plan, President Mogae Says
Botswana, the nation with the world's highest rate of HIV infection, plans to implement a program to distribute antiretroviral medications to "all who need [them]" by year's end, President Festus Mogae said yesterday. The AP/Nando Times reports that the Botswanan government, which has $6.5 billion in foreign exchange reserves, is conducting a "needs assessment" and would pay a "substantial" portion of the program's costs, but it still needs to upgrade its health care infrastructure to "ensure" it can deliver and monitor the drugs effectively. Mogae said he hopes to enlist aid groups to provide such technical assistance. Although he did not provide a cost estimate for the program, Mogae did say that Botswana needs to purchase the drugs at "affordable prices," noting that
Cipla Ltd.'s offer to sell generic triple-drug therapy for $600 per patient per year is "more in line" with what the country could afford. However he hopes he can "convince" major drug manufacturers to lower their prices even further. More than a third of Botswana's adult population is infected with HIV, and projected life expectancy has dropped by 25 years (Nessman, AP/Nando Times, 3/14). "It means blank extinction. It's a reality. You think I exaggerate," Mogae said of the AIDS epidemic. "We are determined we shall overcome this scourge in the next five years. We know the trouble we are in," he added (Swindells, Reuters/Toronto Star, 3/15). If the country does not take some action, the "implications are too horrendous to contemplate," Mogae said. But he added that he is "concerned" that the drug program may damage the country's "extensive" HIV/AIDS prevention program. "We hope that people don't get the impression that there is a cure and now they can relax," he said (AP/Nando Times, 3/14).
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