Harvard Professor Analyzes HIV/AIDS Plan Put Forth By U2’s Bono
Harvard Economics Professor Robert Barro relates his discussion about HIV/AIDS initiatives with rock star Bono in a column in this week's BusinessWeek. Barro, who is also a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, writes that after campaigning for debt relief, Bono has turned his efforts to "alleviating the AIDS epidemic in Africa" through an initiative combining expanded international trade with an increase in medical assistance from wealthy nations to developing countries. Barro states that he has "concerns about the efficacy" of Bono's plan. He writes that although pharmaceutical companies might "yield to international pressures" to cut the cost of AIDS drugs for poorer nations, they might be reluctant to finance research for an AIDS vaccine or cure, either or both of which are "likely to emerge from the efforts of profit-seeking corporations." In addition, Barro notes that the cost of delivering AIDS medicines to people in developing nations would still be "very high," even if the drugs were cheap. Barro states that even though AIDS drugs can extend the lives of HIV-positive people, the "resulting increase in life spans could ... actually expand the epidemic," as people taking the drugs would have a longer period of time in which to spread the virus to others. He suggests that efforts to fight diseases be directed at initiatives aimed at cutting measles and malaria, two diseases "for which the dollar cost of saving a life is much lower." Barro writes that international trade is a "good idea" and that "combining economic orthodoxy with the expansion of medical aid" is "politically astute." However, he concludes, "I wish I could believe that debt relief and assistance for AIDS would encourage economic development and save lives in Africa. But my understanding of economics and my research on economic growth keep me from believing these things" (Barro, BusinessWeek, 7/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.