|Issue No 85||23 February 2001|
The Real Drug Wars
By Ken Davis
- Overseas Program Officer, APHEDA ´┐Ż Union Aid Abroad
As Africa attempts to deal with the HIV crisis, access to the medicines that can relieve victims' suffering is emerging as a major humanitarian issue.
At the end of last year 36 million people were living with HIV, the majority of them in Africa. So far 22 million people have died of AIDS, again the majority in Africa. In the year 2000, 2.5 million adults and half a million children died of AIDS. Yet most people around the world with HIV or AIDS cannot access medical care: drugs to treat symptoms or infections like TB that take over when the immune system is weakened, or anti-retroviral drugs to suspend the replication of HIV.
The main pharmaceutical companies, with sales of $315 billion per year, earn less than one per cent The of their profits from Africa, yet are campaigning to prevent African governments from buying cheap generic HIV medicines from producers in India, Brazil and Thailand.
GlaxoSmithKline with 39 other international pharmaceutical companies is beginning a court case against the South African government on 5 March, which the Treatments Action Campaign has designated as a world-wide day of protest.
GSK is also threatening Ghana for buying anti-HIV drugs from the Indian company CIPLA, which has offered combination HIV therapies to international non-profit health agencies for $800 per patient per year, while GSK charges over $18,000. Meanwhile the US government is hauling Brazil before the WTO for producing anti-HIV drugs for its citizens. Through this program Brazil has cut its HIV mortality rate by 50%.
The main obstacle to making treatments available for millions of people with HIV in Africa and across the developing world is simply the drive by companies such as GSK, Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck, Bristol Myers Squibb, Pfizer and Roche to protect their patents and super-profits.
The international trade union movement (ICFTU) has adopted a policy that health crises such as HIV and TB require making treatments available for the millions who need them to survive, and these urgent social needs take precedence over the profits of the big companies.
In the Mardi Gras, as well as the Labor Council group, there will be a special Global Treatments Action contingent.
APHEDA-Union Aid Abroad works in partnership with trade unions in South Africa and Zimbabwe on HIV education and care, and advocacy for the rights of workers and their families affected by HIV.
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Organising: The Battle of Campsie
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History: Scabbing Through the Ages
Neale Towart looks back at how popular culture has treated those workers who have not considered themselves part of the collective.
International: Diary of a Showdown
The Korean Metal Workers Federation recounts a week which culminated in violent attacks on workers outside the Daewoo factory.
Economics: Debt Dumping Campaign Enters New Phase
The millennial deadline might have passed, but Jubilee 2000 is not giving up the fight for debt cancellation for the world´┐Żs fifty-two poorest countries.
Health: The Real Drug Wars
As Africa attempts to deal with the HIV crisis, access to the medicines that can relieve victims´┐Ż suffering is emerging as a major humanitarian issue.
Satire: Liberals Claim Triumph in Queensland
John Howard has claimed the Liberal Party´┐Żs decimation in Western Australia and Queensland as a triumphant vindication of his party´┐Żs embracing of the national competition policy.
Review: Beyond a White Australia
As we ponder the One Nation renaissance, a new book challenges the current debates around xenophobia and the perceived threat of danger from Asia.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005