Caribbean Leaders Call AIDS ‘Single Biggest Threat’ to Development, Announce Push for Low-Cost Antiretrovirals
Caribbean leaders on Saturday at a Caribbean Community summit announced plans for "another push" for low-cost antiretroviral drugs, calling AIDS the "single biggest threat to the region's development," the Associated Press reports. The Caribbean has the highest HIV prevalence after sub-Saharan Africa. Officials are currently conducting a study into the economic impact of the disease on the region. St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, head of health issues for CARICOM, said that the disease threatens to cripple the labor force as the region seeks to enter into increased competition in world markets. While negotiations with pharmaceutical companies have succeeded in lowering antiretroviral drug prices by more than 80%, many HIV-positive people still cannot afford the drugs, and officials plan to lobby for additional discounts (Jacobs, Associated Press, 7/5). The William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation last month announced plans to treat at least 700,000 AIDS patients in Africa and the Caribbean over the next five years, and the foundation in April organized discussions among CARICOM and several pharmaceutical companies to negotiate reduced-cost antiretroviral drugs for people in the region who are living with HIV/AIDS. The price of combination antiretroviral treatment is now $800 per person per year in the region, down from last year's annual price of $1,000 per person (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/17).
'Widening the Net'
The leaders are also considering an offer from Cuban President Fidel Castro to send Cuban doctors and nurses to provide care for AIDS patients in countries that lack adequate health care. CARICOM plans to seek aid from the United Nations and other groups to "widen the net" of aid proposed in Bush's global AIDS initiative, which could provide $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in African nations and in Haiti and Guyana. In addition, with the help of a $500,000 World Health Organization grant, CARICOM plans to set up an HIV/AIDS commission in Georgetown, Guyana (Associated Press, 7/5).