Swaziland’s Queen, Health Minister Visit L.A. HIV/AIDS Clinic Seeking Support, Treatment Ideas
Queen LaMagwazarage of Swaziland, accompanied by Health Minister Dr. Philetse Dalamini, visited the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, Los Angeles County, Calif.'s largest AIDS center, Wednesday on a partial "fact-finding mission" and partial "rally" in search of support for their nation's efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, which has so far infected a third of their population, the Los Angeles Times reports. Bud Chiles, vice president of HOPEworldwide in Africa, called the visit "very proactive" and added that it may indicate a "change in the way African nations are choosing to combat the epidemic." During the visit, officials "highlighted the dramatic challenges" faced by their country, including limited access to the rural population and a small budget to fight HIV/AIDS. Currently, the government spends $2 million of its $30 million annual health budget on HIV/AIDS. Most of that money is directed toward education and prevention efforts. The high cost of medications has prohibited the government from treating patients. "Sometimes we know what to do but we can't do it because we don't have the resources," Dalamini explained. Officials are "urging" other governments to join them in "lobby[ing]" pharmaceutical companies to lower prices. King Mswati III, who did not to accompany the queen, has voiced "frustration" about the "disparity" in the amount of AIDS funding that developing nations, which have been most affected by the disease, receive versus the amount that goes toward HIV/AIDS efforts in developed nations. He began a fundraising campaign in January, utilizing charity events and sales of a compilation CD featuring Elton John and Destiny's Child, to triple Swaziland's health budget and provide funds to other African countries (Rhone, Los Angeles Times, 5/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.