Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
TAC Chair Zackie Achmat Calls HIV Testing, Treatment the ‘Most Effective Way’ to Slow Spread of AIDS
Zackie Achmat, chair of the South African AIDS group the Treatment Action Campaign, states in a Guardian op-ed that there are "two critical barriers" to access to antiretroviral treatment in South Africa -- a "lack of political will" by the government and the "failure" of drug companies to allow generic competition in the country. Achmat says that although TAC supported the South African government during its court battle with 39 pharmaceutical companies over generic drug production and importation, South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang's "failure ... to take the epidemic seriously left us with no choice but to take her to court over the issue of
mother-to-child" HIV transmission. Achmat adds that although a program to stop vertical transmission is "essential," drug treatment for all HIV-positive people is "even more important." Achmat states that drug companies have made "some compromises" on the price of AIDS medicines, but "they have not gone far enough," and patents "still remain a barrier to affordable treatment." Achmat outlines TAC's proposal for increasing access to AIDS drugs: pharmaceutical firms should grant non-exclusive licenses in the developing world to generic drug makers in exchange for a 5% royalty on their sale prices. "If drug companies do not take up this offer, they will once more face activists around the world when these licenses are obtained via litigation," Achmat writes. Achmat also says that the European Commission and the World Health Organization are trying to "hijack" the Global Fund to Fight to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. These organizations are making a "concerted attempt" to prevent the fund from going toward antiretroviral treatment, he states. "It is on this issue particularly that people concerned about the inequities in health care between rich and poor countries need to campaign. The most effective way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS is to offer people the chance to be tested, treated and counseled about how they can change their behavior," he concludes (Achmat, Guardian, 12/1).
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