West African Countries Address Antiretroviral Access at Economic Community Meeting
Fifteen countries from the Economic Community of West African States last week met in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, to examine ways of generating funds to increase access to antiretroviral drugs in the region, Xinhua News Agency reports. The three-day meeting was an initiative of the ECOWAS-established West African Health Organization and was held under the framework of launching public-private partnerships to ensure access to inexpensive, high-quality antiretrovirals. Meeting participants -- who included health experts, development partners and pharmaceutical representatives -- were expected to create a mechanism aimed at promoting the local manufacture of antiretrovirals, according to Xinhua News Agency. Participants also were scheduled to generate innovative methods of raising funds to purchase drugs.
According to WAHO Deputy CEO Maiga Moussa, more than 75% of HIV-positive adults in the region do not have antiretroviral access. About 810,000 out of the 4.5 million HIV-positive people ages 15 and older in need of antiretrovirals in West Africa had access to them in 2005, Xinhua News Agency reports. "Our member states are experiencing difficulties in buying essential drugs as the HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to weigh heavily on national budgets," Moussa said. Bamba N'Galadjo, WAHO gender commissioner, said that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is a "challenge that must be overcome by the ECOWAS as it is threatening social stability and sustainability of the regional economy" (Xinhua News Agency, 8/30).