Ugandan Government Commits To Using Generic Antiretroviral Drugs In Treatment Program
The Ugandan Ministry of Health on Sunday for the first time made a clear commitment to using antiretroviral drugs in its national HIV/AIDS treatment program, U.N. IRIN/AllAfrica.com reports. Uganda previously had been "coy" about purchasing generic antiretrovirals, according to U.N. IRIN/AllAfrica.com. "We still think the American companies are right in principle. India and Brazil cannot have open-ended rights to produce drugs breaking intellectual property laws," President Yoweri Museveni said at the 11th International Conference for People Living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda (U.N. IRIN/AllAfrica.com, 10/27). World Trade Organization negotiators in August reached an agreement to allow developing countries to issue a compulsory license in order to import the generic drugs if the country confirms that it cannot domestically manufacture the drugs itself (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/27). Some observers have said that Museveni had not taken advantage of the WTO deal because he was "unwilling to upset" brand-name pharmaceutical companies or the Bush administration, which have been lobbying against the export of generic antiretrovirals, according to U.N. IRIN/AllAfrica.com. However, Ugandan Health Minister Jim Muhwezi on Sunday at the conference said, "We have a law in place that allows us to import generic drugs in a crisis and we will certainly be doing this." Muhwezi said that the country has not yet negotiated pricing but that it would buy generic antiretrovirals as long as the drugs passed World Health Organization approval standards (U.N. IRIN/AllAfrica.com, 10/27).
The Ethiopian health ministry on Tuesday announced that it would be begin providing antiretroviral drugs free-of-charge to poor HIV-positive people in the country, Reuters reports. "Preparation is underway to enable people who cannot afford (the drugs) and certified as HIV/AIDS positive (to) get access to antiretroviral drugs free of charge," the Ministry of Health said in a statement, adding, "Trained personnel will be engaged in screening those seeking free medications from the low-income bracket." Up to 2.2 million of the country's 70 million people are HIV-positive, according to Reuters (Reuters, 10/28).