HIV/AIDS ‘Hampering’ Africa’s Trade and Development, AIDS Specialist Tells African, U.S. Officials at Economic Conference
HIV/AIDS is "a hidden tax on trade and investment" and is "hampering Africa's chances of attracting foreign investment and of boosting its economic development through free trade," an AIDS expert yesterday told top African and U.S. officials who are attending the second annual U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum in Mauritius, Agence France-Presse reports. "The loss of key government workers [from AIDS-related diseases] means work is not done efficiently, investment is reduced and economic growth slowed down," Alan Whiteside, an AIDS specialist and professor at Natal University, said in a paper delivered at the conference. He added that HIV/AIDS is "equivalent to an additional production cost," causing African firms to be less competitive in the international market (Agence France-Presse, 1/17). The conference focuses on the African Growth and Opportunities Act, which President Bush said he would ask Congress to extend beyond its 2008 expiration. That act allows "liberalized" trade rules for African countries that meet certain economic and political standards set by the United States (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/16). While the act has had "tangible effects" on African exports, Whiteside warned that existing and new investors "may choose to relocate elsewhere than Africa" because of HIV/AIDS, Agence France-Presse reports. Whiteside recommended a "more open and supportive approach to AIDS from the private sector" and government tax breaks and subsidies for firms that reach "certain standards of treatment and prevention." In a separate paper presented at the conference, independent consultant Bill Rau, Jennifer Kaerasora of the U.S. Department of Labor and researcher Farzana Muhib said, "Government must work with the relevant stakeholders to strengthen HIV prevention efforts by addressing the factors believed to be fuelling the epidemic, namely inequities resulting from poverty, especially among youths." In a parallel set of meetings in Mauritius, non-governmental organizations recommended that AGOA "facilitates the free access to inexpensive generic drugs for HIV/AIDS under franchise, given the ravages being done by this pandemic in African countries" (Agence France-Presse, 1/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.