Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Zambian President Appoints New Health Minister, Tasks Him With Securing Cheap AIDS Drugs
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa on Saturday appointed Brigadier-General Brian Chituwo, who is also a doctor, as health minister and tasked him with securing AIDS drugs for the nation at the lowest possible price, Reuters reports. "HIV and AIDS has taken away the lives of many healthy men and women. We must step up the fight against the pandemic. The health ministry must find life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs and get them to our hospitals," Mwanawasa, who has already declared the disease a national disaster, said in a statement. Chituwo can expect to face some hurdles in obtaining cheaper drugs, Reuters reports. Although Zambia has already entered into formal price negotiations with several drug makers, the current "heavily subsidized" $60 a month price tag is still "well beyond [the] reach" of most Zambians. Without the government subsidy, the price would be about $600 per patient per month. Garnering support for HIV prevention programs may also prove difficult because of church objections that condom promotion encourages promiscuity. A condom ad campaign was called off last year after some church leaders objected. AIDS advocates hope that Chituwo will be effective because he has experience with the military, which has an HIV/AIDS rate 20% higher than the national average of one in five adults. "As a soldier, he knows the problem much better than everyone else. Zambia's army and the teaching profession have been gravely affected by AIDS," one senior AIDS researcher said (Reuters, 1/19).
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