African Growth and Opportunity Summit Begins in Mauritius; African HIV/AIDS Advocates Concerned About U.S. Role
The Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, during which African officials are expected to "as[k] tough questions about American policies" on HIV/AIDS, began yesterday in Mauritius, the New York Times reports. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick is representing the United States at the event, after representing the U.S. at World Trade Organization talks last month (Becker, New York Times, 1/11). Last month's talks failed to reach an agreement on giving developing countries that do not have the ability to domestically produce medicines the right to import low-cost generic drugs, as the United States "insisted" that the deal should apply only to drugs used to treat certain infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/23/02). African HIV/AIDS advocates are concerned that the United States blocked the deal, and some advocates "quietly" added that they are "insulted" that Zoellick -- and not President Bush -- is representing the United States in Mauritius. Zackie Achmat, president of the South African HIV/AIDS advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign, said, "We were very sad when we learned that President Bush would not travel to Africa and witness the devastation wrought by AIDS-related illness." Zoellick is scheduled to meet with trade ministers throughout Southern Africa this week and to focus on plans for establishing a "future free trade zone" in Africa. But his agenda includes no "mention of the HIV/AIDS pandemic," the Times reports. Asia Russell, director of international policy for the Health Global Access Project, said, "Free trade doesn't work for the dead. A modest expansion of trade will be of little comfort to millions of Africans who will die of treatable illnesses" (New York Times, 1/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.