Mbeki and Castro Meet in Cuba to Discuss AIDS Drugs and Trade
South African President Thabo Mbeki is in Cuba this week to discuss with Cuban President Fidel Castro the "economic, health and educational ties" and "commercial possibilities" between their countries, Reuters/CNN reports (Reuters/CNN, 3/26). Last week, Castro offered to assist South Africa in its efforts to acquire cheaper AIDS drugs, saying he would "help [the country] circumvent patent laws to produce" the medicines (Agence France-Presse, 3/27). Castro has been a "vocal" supporter of South African and Brazilian efforts to produce generic versions of AIDS drugs (Reuters/CNN, 3/26). Castro last week also said that Cuba was producing its own versions of patented U.S. pharmaceuticals, although he declined to say which AIDS drugs the country was making ( Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/19). Both Cuba and South Africa have laws that allow their governments to bypass patent laws in "emergencies." Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said relations between Cuba and South Africa are "excellent," adding that the leaders are "look[ing] at ways to boost cooperation between the two countries and exchang[ing] information on the situation in Africa." Cuba has more than 400 doctors working in the South African public health system to alleviate a shortage of medical personnel in rural areas. About 200 South Africans are studying at Cuban medical schools. Castro supported Mbeki's African National Congress during its anti-apartheid struggle, and the two countries have "maintained a close relationship" ever since (Agence France-Presse, 3/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.