Former President Clinton Completes Tour of Africa Aimed at Fighting HIV/AIDS
At the conclusion of a four-nation tour of Africa on Sunday, former President Clinton discussed progress in HIV treatment access and costs, the role of nutrition among HIV-positive children and other issues, the AP/Google.com reports.
According to the AP/Google.com, the Clinton Foundation has helped negotiate agreements to lower the prices of rapid HIV tests and antiretrovirals in the developing world and has collaborated with UNITAID to provide low-cost antiretrovirals. Clinton said the cost of antiretrovirals in 2006, when UNITAID was created, was $600; the same drugs now cost $60.
"The same people who sell them today at U.S. $60 did not all the sudden have a conversion where they said, 'I'm being greedy and now I'll be generous.' They charged that because they had a small volume with a lot of fixed costs," Clinton said. He added, "Now, because of the UNITAID funding, there is a big volume with absolutely certain payments. So they can charge a small profit margin on each individual lifesaving medication." Nevertheless, "we're still a long way from universal coverage," Clinton said.
According to the United Nations, only two million of the 22 million HIV-positive people in Africa have access to antiretrovirals. Clinton said about 30% of pregnant HIV-positive women give birth to infants with HIV but added that antiretrovirals can reduce that rate to 2%. He added that since 2006, the number of children in the developing world with access to antiretrovirals has increased from 10,000 to more than 200,000.
Clinton also discussed malnourishment among HIV-positive children in the developing world. Clinton said that during his tour, he saw children in Ethiopia who "cannot live" because they are unable to absorb antiretroviral drugs because of malnourishment. Clinton also traveled to Liberia, Rwanda and Senegal.
"If you look at the rising price of petroleum, the rising price of food around the world, we are all going to have to re-examine how we produce food, where we produce it, how we consume it," Clinton said, adding, "It's not just a question of energy prices, it's not just a question of global warming. It's a question of how we are going to keep our kids alive" (Pitman, AP/Google.com, 8/3).
During a stop in Dakar, Senegal, Clinton also praised France for its financial support through UNITAID, AFP/Google.com reports. Clinton said, "It is possible to honor the World Health Organization [treatment] guidelines, in my opinion, only because of UNITAID and the government of France." He added, "It may be the single most important contribution of France to the rest of the world since the end of the Second World War."
UNITAID receives the majority of its funding from a tax on airline tickets that was introduced by France in July 2006; several other countries said they also would institute a similar airline tax. Clinton said, "A huge number" of HIV-positive children "will live because of this idea."
Clinton is scheduled to attend the XVII International AIDS Conference on Monday (AFP/Google.com, 8/3).
Kaisernetwork.org is the official webcaster of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Click here to sign up for your Daily Update e-mail during the conference. A live webcast of a session featuring Clinton on HIV/AIDS and health system reform will be available at 2:15 p.m. ET (18:15 GMT).