World Economic Forum Urges African Nations to Declare AIDS a National Emergency
Leaders at the World Economic Forum in South Africa urged Southern African countries on Friday to declare AIDS a national emergency and "demand" that developed nations commit resources to help them fight the epidemic, the Associated Press reports. Summit Co-chair Niall FitzGerald said, "The fight against HIV and other health challenges facing the region [is] one of several battles the region ha[s] to win in order to prosper." South African President Thabo Mbeki acknowledged that southern Africa needs "to do everything. But the reality is that we don't have the capacity to do everything. In reality, we can only do some." In March, Mbeki rejected calls to declare AIDS a national emergency, saying that it would be an inefficient way to fight the disease. The summit was picketed by protesters from several local organizations calling for debt forgiveness. The World Economic Forum, which organizes summits every year to convene political and business leaders to address regional problems, has been criticized in the past for achieving too little (Loof, Associated Press, 6/8).
Health Ministers Discuss Discounts with Drugmakers
Health officials from 11 southern African nations met with representatives from Boehringer Ingelheim, Roche, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, Pfizer, Abbott Laboratories and GlaxoSmithKline on Friday to discuss the distribution of cheaper AIDS drugs, the Associated Press reports. UNAIDS Director Peter Piot facilitated the meeting (Associated Press, 6/8). South African health ministry spokesperson Sibani Mngadi said, "The purpose of the meeting is to create understanding between the companies and countries in the region. The ministers will explain problems they are facing in getting access to medicines" (Reuters, 6/8). More than one year ago, five of the drugmakers offered to cut prices on their drugs for the region with the highest HIV infection rate in the world, but these nations have "yet to benefit" from the deal. The nations in the Southern African Development Community have attempted to negotiate a collective supply agreement, but the drug firms contend that regional negotiations create problems because affordability and health infrastructure differ between countries. South Africa Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said that the companies would rather negotiate with individual countries to "weaken their bargaining power." Participating nations included South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Nambia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, and Angola (Associated Press, 6/8).