AIDS in Africa
"Intermittent Drug Therapy for AIDS Is Tested"
New York Times (www.nytimes.com) (07/12/00) P. A11; Altman,
As scientists continue to scramble for ways to improve patient
reactions to AIDS drugs, a prominent U.S. government researcher
revealed at the 13th International AIDS conference in Durban,
South Africa, that giving AIDS patients breaks in their difficult
combination medication regimens not only reduces the occurrence
of side effects, but helps the body to fight the virus on its
own. The news raises hopes in the battle against AIDS, as
regulatory bodies like the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention are concerned that combination therapies may only be
effective for a limited time as the virus adapts to resist the
drugs. The practice of extending life expectancies with planned
medication breaks is currently in about 10 different trials in
the United States and Europe, basing the length of the
interruptions on HIV viral loads in the bloodstream. So far,
those stopping their drug regimens for as long as a month have
experienced increased HIV levels, but have pushed their viral
loads back down to unmeasurable levels after re-starting therapy.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases, hopes that the studies will lead to a
better understanding of AIDS drugs and their effects, permitting
patients to halt their regimens for as long as six or eight
months at a time, though he cautions that the cyclical break
system is not a cure by any means.
"Sparks Fly at AIDS Meeting Over Breast-Feeding"
Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com) (07/12/00) P. B2; Waldholz,
Participants at the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban,
South Africa, are debating the issue of whether a simple and
inexpensive drug treatment can help prevent millions of pregnant
women with HIV from transmitting the virus to their children.
Results from a number of clinical studies reportedly show that
giving one of several AIDS drugs to HIV-infected pregnant women
during labor and then to their infants just after birth can
substantially lower at birth the risk of HIV transmission.
However, some of the data, which is to be presented on Thursday,
indicates that the treatment strategy is affected if the
mothers breast-feed their children and transmit the virus via
their breast milk. While some experts note that because most
women in Africa breast-feed their children, making the drug
therapy less effective than expected, other conference
participants have suggested that African women be urged to
bottle-feed, reviving a decades-old debate about nursing versus
bottle-feeding. Thirty years ago, many experts claimed that
infant-formula makers got many women to depend heavily on baby
formula and that the babies were at risk because some of the
women used contaminated water or diluted the product. The issue
has been resurrected, however, with the advent of HIV. Although
University of California at San Diego researcher Stephen Spector
said, "The evidence strongly suggest we should now be
aggressively promoting the use of infant formula for infected
mothers who have been treated" with AIDS drugs, Dr. Hoosen M.
Coovadia of King Edward Hospital in Durban pointed out that many
women cannot afford formula and some will not bottle-feed for
fear of being identified as infected with HIV.
"Young People Found Uninformed on AIDS"
New York Times (www.nytimes.com) (07/12/00) P. A11
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has found that
many young people in developing nations, particularly girls, do not
know much about HIV transmission and AIDS. According to the
group's study of 34 countries, more than 50 percent of the 15- to
19-year-old girls in about half of the nations surveyed said that
they did not know an AIDS patient could appear healthy; that
number soared to 80 percent or higher in Chad, Niger, and Nepal.
"This knowledge gap is one important element in understanding the
higher HIV infection rate among girls in many countries," the
report noted. The UNICEF survey, which is part of the agency's
annual Progress of Nations report, also found that in Haiti,
Zambia, and Zimbabwe, more than 50 percent of sexually active
girls did not consider themselves in danger of HIV infection.
"Lilly Will Donate Drugs to Battle Tuberculosis"
Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com) (07/12/00) P. A3; Zimmerman,
In what will be the first joint initiative between the public
and private sectors to focus drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB), Eli
Lilly is in discussion with the World Health Organization,
Medecins Sans Frontieres, and Jacobus Pharmaceuticals to provide
free supplies of its high-priced antibiotics. A deal should be
announced within weeks, with Lilly expected to donate an unknown
quantity of two expensive anti-TB drugs, capreomycin and
cycloserine, and to sell an additional amount at market price.
TB, the leading cause of death from a single infectious disease
worldwide, was nearly eliminated in the 1940s; however,
drug-resistant strains have surfaced, particularly in the Russian
prison system, and could become a serious global health threat if
allowed to remain unchecked. Negotiators believe that the drugs
will initially be used in a campaign to treat 1,000 Russian
prisoners and civilians and may eventually expand to other parts
of Russia, Latvia, Estonia, Peru, the Philippines, Morocco,
Chile, and other regions where multidrug-resistant TB strains
"Tests Offer New Hope on AIDS in Africa"
Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) (07/12/00) P. A1; Brown,
Three studies presented at the 13th International AIDS
Conference in Durban on Tuesday suggested that combination AIDS
drug therapies, which are currently available only in the world's
wealthy nations, may be useful for infected groups in many parts
of the Third World. While top AIDS experts have said that the
drug regimens require too much logistical support for basic
health systems in poor regions, the studies demonstrated
successes in giving the drug cocktails in the Ivory Coast,
Senegal, and Ugandan capitals. The studies were fairly
small--involving less than 1,000 people--but they indicated the
logistical problems could be overcome in some situations. For
the Ugandan study, 350 individuals were give single or double
drug therapies at a cost of about $250 a month. Fifteen months
later, more than half were still taking the drugs. A similar
study in Ivory Coast involving 422 people found that after a year
and a half, 71 percent of the patients were still taking the
cocktail therapies. Nearly 90 percent of the 75 patients in a
home-grown study in Senegal were still enrolled two years into
the research. The researchers noted that mortality was fairly
high in the three programs, since most of the patients had
advanced AIDS when the study began, and full virus suppression
was rare, since many of the individuals were receiving two drugs
instead of three.
"U.S. Researcher Criticizes Mbeki for Backing 'Dissidents' on
Washington Times (www.washtimes.com) (07/12/00) P. A18;
Dr. David Ho, head of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in
New York City, criticized South African President Thabo Mbeki on
Tuesday for questioning whether HIV is the cause of AIDS. In a
speech at the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban, Ho
said, "President Mbeki, I beg you not to let your legacy be
defined by inaction on this human tragedy." Ho stated that HIV
is the cause of AIDS and showed a microscope photograph of the
virus attacking a cell to reinforce his point. Mbeki's attitude
regarding the cause of AIDS has sparked controversy and protests
that have overshadowed much of the new research being presented
at the conference. Also, at the conference center on Tuesday,
activists called on the World Health Organization to add
anti-AIDS drugs to its list of essential drugs. Providing drugs
to at least 12 million HIV-infected individuals worldwide would
cost about $60 billion annually, according to the London-based
"The Durban Declaration"
Nature (www.nature.com) (07/06/00) Vol. 406, No. 6791, P. 15
The Durban Declaration, which was signed by over 5,000
researchers and experts, is a document developed in response to
the controversy in South Africa about whether HIV is the cause of
AIDS. The declaration states that there is definitive,
scientific proof that AIDS is caused by HIV-1 or HIV-2. The
paper lists several criteria to support its point, including the
fact that all AIDS patients, no matter where they live, are
infected with HIV. The authors write that while there are
different patterns of HIV and AIDS throughout the world and that
a variety of factors help determine the risk of disease,
scientific evidence still clearly shows that HIV is the sole
cause of AIDS. "Prevention of HIV infection must be our greatest
worldwide public-health priority," the declaration asserts, also
calling for new drug treatments that are easier to take, have
fewer adverse reactions, and which cost less, so more people can
"Hopes for Anti-H.I.V. Treatment Dashed"
New York Times (www.nytimes.com) (07/13/00) P. A6; Altman,
A UNAIDS study presented at the 13th International AIDS
Conference in Durban, South Africa, revealed that of nearly 1,000
HIV-negative prostitutes in Africa and Thailand, those using the
nonoxynol-9 gel were more likely to contract HIV than those using
a placebo gel. UNAIDS officials said that 59 infections were
discovered in the spermicidal group, while just 41 infections
were noted within the placebo group. The Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention's Dr. Ann Duerr notes that for people at
high risk for HIV infection, "condoms with or without nonoxynol-9
should be used." Duerr said that the implications of the UNAIDS
study's findings for the low levels of nonoxynol-9 on lubricated
condoms are not certain. As a result of the study, the CDC has
halted planned research among women at high risk for HIV in Los
Angeles and Miami.
"AIDS Spurs a Crisis of Orphanhood Across Africa"
Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) (07/13/00) P. A18;
A survey conducted by the U.S. government suggests that the
AIDS crisis will create an epidemic of orphanhood in Africa for at
least a generation, as by 2010 one in seven children under the
age of 15 years in sub-Saharan Africa will have lost at least one
parent. The study, to be presented by the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID) today, remarks that this group
of orphans is not typical; most orphaned groups are left without
a parent by a catastrophe such as war, genocide, or natural
disaster. Ten years ago, just one-fifth of the orphaned children
in sub-Saharan Africa were that way because of AIDS. Today,
however, nearly half of all orphan cases are caused by AIDS, and
a decade from now 70 percent of orphaned children will have lost
a parent to AIDS. The agency estimates that 44 million
sub-Saharan children have lost their fathers, with most of them
to AIDS-related deaths. The eventual toll on the continent is
difficult to predict, according to the report, as many of the
factors that arise from losing a parent are subtle and affect
children in various ways. Orphaned children also cost about
$2,000 per year to raise, a total that is tremendously high in
the poor nations of southern Africa. While most orphan studies
concerning AIDS deaths concern themselves with children who lose
both parents or a mother, the USAID study also included the
factor of losing a father--an important aspect considering that
men are often the only working members of the family in Africa,
and especially in southern Africa, where the AIDS epidemic is at
"HIV a Crisis for Third World Children"
Washington Times (www.washtimes.com) (07/13/00) P. A13; Nessman,
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) revealed on Wednesday
in its Progress of Nations report that the AIDS crisis and its
effects on children have been underestimated, as millions have
lost parents and hundreds of thousands have lost teachers to
AIDS, reducing their chances for both a normal home life and a
good education. In addition, many children in developing
countries do not know ways to protect themselves from contracting
HIV; for instance, almost 75 percent of Mozambique girls and 62
percent of boys between the ages of 15 years and 19 years do not
know one way to prevent infection. The difference is alarming,
because women face a higher risk of contracting HIV than men, and
reports indicate that girls between the ages of 15 years and 19
years believe they are not at risk for the disease. In addition,
sub-Saharan Africa has witnessed the deaths of teachers for
approximately 860,000 schoolchildren. However, there are a
number of small prevention programs in African nations that
suggest the situation is not hopeless, though they are difficult
to monitor given their size and budgets. The total budgets for
AIDS programs in developing countries is just $600 million, as
compared with the United States domestic AIDS prevention budget
of $800 million and assistance programs for other countries
budgeted at $7 billion.
"African Nations Studying Generic AIDS Drugs"
Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com) (07/13/00) P. A3; Waldholz,
In private meetings at the 13th International AIDS Conference in
Durban, South Africa, representatives from over a dozen African
countries are talking with U.S. and European generic drug makers
and UNAIDS to develop a program similar to those found in Brazil
and India to produce AIDS drugs at substantially lower prices
than those charged for branded drugs. While not committing to
the proposal, the African nations hope that the talks will induce
AIDS drugs makers like Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb to reduce
their prices or offer deals to nations that cannot afford the
medications for their citizens. However, any changes to the
present market would be a major threat to leading drugs
companies, who are concerned that lower prices in some countries
will create demand in developed countries for reduced prices as
well, where drugs firms make most of their money. The difference
in generic pricing is tremendous in Brazil, where Glaxo
Wellcome's AZT and 3TC combination therapy sells for $1.50 when
produced by generic makers, as compared with its $7 daily cost in
Uganda and $18 price in the United States.
"Gates, Wife Give $25 Million to Va. Study"
Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) (07/13/00) P. B3
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, created by Microsoft founder
Bill Gates and his wife, has $25 million to Virginia researchers.
The grant is meant to finance studies of preparations that can be
used to protect women against HIV and other sexually transmitted
diseases. Announced at the 13th International AIDS Conference in
Durban, South Africa, the funding is intended to help researchers
with connections to the Eastern Virginia Medical School of
Norfolk for the study and advancement of microbicides, whether in
the form of gels, creams, suppositories, or sponges.
"Re-Use of Female Condom in African Countries Stirs Worries"
Agence France Presse (www.afp.com) (07/11/00)
The World Health Organization and UNAIDS expressed concern on
Tuesday that poor African women are re-using the female condom.
The two agencies noted that women in several sub-Saharan nations
were re-using the polyurethane prophylactic because they could
not afford or obtain new ones. Officials noted that using soap
and water or diluted bleach may not be sufficient to remove HIV
from its surface, and the condom may also be weakened by any
chemicals used. In a statement, the two groups said that "re-use
of the female condom is not recommended."
"Drugs Help Mothers Stop Giving HIV to Babies"
Reuters (www.reuters.com) (07/11/00)
On Tuesday, Bristol-Myers Squibb released data from a study in
South Africa demonstrating that two of its HIV drugs, Videx and
Zerit, are equivalent to AZT in preventing mother to child
HIV-transmission. Bristol-Myers noted that its two medications
are in the same class as AZT and Viramune, both of which are
highly regarded as HIV-transmission preventatives. Scientists at
Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital near Johannesburg administered
the drugs to pregnant mothers a few weeks before delivery and
then to the babies after birth in various combinations and doses.
Preliminary six-week data indicates that the transmission rates
for children treated with Videx, Zerit, or a combination of the
two drugs were comparable to those treated with AZT.
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- "Senate OKs $600M for AIDS"
Las Vegas Sun Online (www.lasvegassun.com) (07/26/00)
The Senate has passed legislation that grants up to $600 million
in U.S. funding to fight HIV and AIDS in Africa and other parts
of the world. The Senate approved the bill, proposed by Sens.
Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), which calls on the
U.S. Treasury to set up a trust fund with the World Bank for HIV
prevention and treatment and also for the care of children
orphaned by AIDS. The measure will supply $300 million in U.S.
aid in each of the next two years and also provides $120 million
to fight tuberculosis in developing nations.
- "Tanzania Declares AIDS National Catastrophe"
Africa News Service (www.africanews.org) (08/09/00)
Tanzania's government has declared AIDS a national disaster.
Given the disease's impact on both the economy and the community,
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health Mariam Mwaffisi
announced, "[Nongovernmental organizations], religious groups,
and other institutions should join in the war against the
epidemic in order to reduce its spread and mitigate its impact."
While she did not provide any statistics about AIDS in Tanzania,
Mwaffisi said Tuesday that she has set up a seminar to help the
13 registered political parties better understand AIDS and the
issues surrounding it before the general elections this fall.
Earlier this year, Vice President Dr. Omari Juma urged various
religious groups to join the fight against AIDS, and he also
called on the nation to end customs and traditions that could
help spread HIV, such as wife inheriting.
"Liberia Earmarks $6.5 Million for HIV/AIDS Program"
PANA Wire Service (www.africanews.org/PANA) (08/09/00); Kahler,
Liberia needs $6.5 million to prevent the spread of AIDS for
the next three years, and a strategic plan drawn up by participants
at a recent health workshop said the money should be used for
advocacy, education, behavioral change, treatment of sexually
transmitted diseases, and blood safety. Participants at the
workshop include members of government ministries, United Nations
agencies, the donor community, and community-based organizations.
The new plan aims to boost the nation's ability to respond to
AIDS and also to lower HIV prevalence by 15 percent by 2003.
"Angola Needs $12 Million to Fight AIDS"
PANA Wire Service (www.africanews.org/PANA) (08/09/00)
Angola's deputy health minister, Natalia do Espirito, stated
at a recent AIDS symposium that the country requires $12 million to
help fund its national AIDS control program. She said better
educational campaigns are needed to make people more aware of the
disease and to change their sexual behaviors. The symposium,
whose theme was "Fighting AIDS Together," also focused on AIDS in
the workplace. Statistics show that more than 43,700 cases of
HIV or AIDS had been reported in Angola as of December 1999.
"HIV Vaccine Trials Planned for Africa"
Nature Medicine (medicine.nature.com) (08/00) Vol. 6, No. 8, P.
844; Birmingham, Karen
Oxford University immunologist Andrew McMichael announced at
the recent International AIDS Conference that human testing of the
gag DNA element of a DNA/modified vaccinia virus prime boost HIV
vaccine will begin Phase I trials this month in Oxford, England.
Testing of the vaccinia boost part will begin in September, with
tests of both parts expected soon after. The vaccine, being
developed in conjunction with the University of Nairobi, is also
set to start testing in Kenya later this year. Separately, the
South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI) continues to work
on its HIV vaccine--a Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus
vaccine that could begin human trials in January 2001. SAAVI has
seven other vaccines in various stages of development. Also, in
a move that will help further South Africa's vaccine efforts, the
U.S. National Institutes of Health recently gave the South
African Medical Research Council $14.7 million over five years
for AIDS research, with part of the money to be used for testing
microbicides and the effectiveness of nevirapine in preventing
HIV transmission by breast-feeding mothers.
- "Biotech Firm Seeks Funding for AIDS Tests"
San Francisco Chronicle (www.sfgate.com) (08/10/00) P. C1; Abate,
Calypte Biomedical Corp. of Alameda, Calif., is hoping to
obtain international funding to send a simple HIV test to Africa.
The test uses urine samples instead of blood to detect the presence
of HIV. Calypte says that it has a verbal agreement from an
international agency to fund the six mobile testing clinics it
has set up with a partner in South Africa. However, the two
firms are looking for additional international support so they
can set up mobile clinics in other African nations. According to
Calypte officials, the mobile clinics would enter a village and
workers would request help from village elders in persuading
individuals to submit urine samples. The clinics could then
analyze the samples and deliver the results, as well as
counseling, the following day.
"AIDS Study Prompts New Look at Prevention"
Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) (08/14/00) P. A3; Okie,
Some experts are worried that the use of the spermicide
nonoxynol-9 may no longer be advisable for women at risk for HIV,
following the release of a UNAIDS study which found that women
who used the gel became infected more often than women who used a
placebo. Nonoxynol-9 is commonly found in condoms but is also
used in contraceptive creams, gels, foams, and sponges. Dr.
Helen D. Gayle, director of the National Center for HIV, STD, and
TB prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
stated, "Clearly, women who are potentially at risk--who have
multiple partners, who don't know what the risk of their partner
may be--may not be a group of women who should be using
nonoxynol-9." The ingredient kills sperm cells but can irritate
the vaginal lining if used too much; test tube studies also
suggest that nonoxynol-9 can kill HIV and the bacteria that cause
certain other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Two
U.S.-funded studies of nonoxynol-9 are being conducted among
African women at risk for HIV. The first study is testing the
ability of nonoxynol-9 to prevent STDs among women in Cameroon,
while the second hopes to look for protection against HIV
infection in women in Zimbabwe and Malawi. Ward Cates of Family
Health International, which is coordinating the second project,
noted, however, that following the release of the UNAIDS study
about nonoxynol-9, they will not test nonoxynol-9. The
researchers have not yet identified a substitute product.
Scientists are now testing potential new microbicides and
considering what steps to advise women to take. Possible
products to be tested include cellulose sulfate and antiviral
drugs for the vagina; however, it will be years before any new
microbicide reaches to the market.
"AIDS Cuts Swath Through Africa's Teachers"
New York Times (www.nytimes.com) (08/14/00) P. A1; Onishi,
In Africa's Ivory Coast, where nearly 11 percent of the
population is thought to have HIV, AIDS is taking the lives of
many teachers. "AIDS constitutes one of the biggest crises and
the biggest threats to the global education agenda that we have
known," UNAIDS head Dr. Peter Piot asserted earlier this year.
In 1998, six teachers a week in the Ivory Coast died from AIDS,
and the disease took the lives of over 1,300 teachers in Zambia.
Lack of knowledge about AIDS and low condom are two factors
behind the spread of HIV. A study from 1996 to 1998 found that
641 educators died of AIDS in the Ivory Coast, and 69 percent of
teachers' deaths during the second year were AIDS related. Also
contributing to the spread of disease is the fact that many
African teachers, most of whom are men, take their first teaching
positions in rural areas, and young women vie for their
attention. The lack of outside interruptions in these rural
areas leads many teachers to have multiple sexual relationships,
and the women often refuse to wear condoms to prove their virtue.
Few teachers are willing to get tested for HIV, as the epidemic
continues to move throughout Africa.
"AIDS, HIV Victims in 14 Africa Countries to Set Up Common
Agence France Presse (www.afp.com) (08/13/00)
HIV-infected people in 14 central and west African Countries have
agreed to set up a network to help each other fight HIV. The
network was agreed upon at a two-day conference in Cameroon, the
first meeting of the African Network of People Living with HIV
and AIDS. Officials from national AIDS groups explained that
they wanted to "formulate a plan of action to support other AIDS
sufferers and to increase awareness among the rest of the
population." The meeting was attended by several United Nations
officials, who vowed to support the proposals that were unveiled.
"UNICEF to Spend $4 Million to Fight AIDS in Mozambique"
Agence France Presse (www.afp.com) (08/12/00)
UNICEF official Ian MacLeod announced Friday that $4 million will
be spent on anti-AIDS programs in Mozambique this year. MacLeod
noted that UNICEF has already provided the National AIDS Council
with $30,000 so it can "start [its] operations as soon as
possible." MacLeod called on the government, nongovernmental
organizations, and the public to work together in the fight
against AIDS. An estimated 16 million people in Mozambique are
infected with HIV, according to statistics.
"AIDS Tops Normally Economic Agenda at Southern Africa Meeting"
Agence France Presse (www.afp.com) (08/12/00)
AIDS will be the leading issue at a southern African conference
that typically focuses on economics. The South Africa
International Dialogue (SAID), set to meet later this month,
joins leaders to discuss issues like trade and economic growth;
however, this year AIDS will be the primary issue for discussion.
The fourth annual meeting of SAID is expected to draw over 400
delegates to Maputo, South Africa on August 20.
- "Researchers Prepare Vaccine Trials in Heart of Africa's AIDS
Detroit Free Press Online (www.freep.com) (08/18/00); Collins,
In Hlabisa, South Africa, researchers are preparing to begin
testing an HIV vaccine based on strains of the virus found in
sub-Saharan Africa. The potential vaccine has shown effective on
macaques, and was created using genetic engineering. In
Hlabisa, most people live in huts and have no electricity or
running water. The area was selected for the vaccine test
because of its high HIV infection rate. Last year, the HIV
infection rate among women seeking prenatal care at the local
hospital was 33 percent, and the infection rate is nearly 40
percent among women between the ages of 15 and 30. The stigma of
AIDS continues in this rural area, and people rarely say the word
for AIDS, "ingulaza," which means "powerful sexually transmitted
disease." The experimental vaccine, set to begin testing by
2002, was developed by researchers at the University of North
Carolina and the University of Cape Town. As the trial draws
closer, the researchers are working educate area residents about
AIDS and also to resolve ethical issues related to testing the
vaccine in the largely uneducated population that does not even
have words for "placebo" or "control group."
"South Africa Tourism Fights Perceptions"
Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com) (08/18/00) P. A11
South Africa's tourism industry is fighting perceptions about
its safety, as crime and HIV take their toll on the country's
economy. The largest wave of visitors to South Africa this year
was for the recent International AIDS Conference in Durban. Last
year, there were 6 million foreign visitors to the country.
"South Africa to Probe Reports of HIV-Linked Dismissals"
Reuters (www.reuters.com) (08/17/00); Sithole, Emelia
South Africa will investigate claims by Mozambique that South
African mining companies are ending contracts with HIV-infected
Mozambican workers. South African Labor Minister Membathisis
Mdladlana said they will gather more information, even though the
South African Chamber of Mines denies wrongdoing. Mario Sevene,
Mozambique's top labor official, also said that some of the
mining companies were privately testing workers for HIV, breaking
South Africa labor laws. The mining industry in South Africa has
been hard hit by the AIDS epidemic.
"Isolation Camps Proposed for Swazi HIV Victims"
Reuters (www.reuters.com) (08/16/00)
Tfohlongwane Dlamini, chairman of the Swaziland National Council
Standing Committee, has proposed setting up camps to isolate HIV
and AIDS patients from the public. The suggestion--an apparent
attempt to stem the spread of HIV--was condemned by Swaziland's
healthcare workers, who asserted he needed more information about
the virus. The Health Ministry noted that HIV cannot be
transmitted via casual contact, and the camps would only increase
the problems that HIV and AIDS patients face. Swaziland has made
several controversial proposals to fight AIDS, including banning
mini-skirts in the country's schools.
- "Loans to Buy AIDS Drugs Are Rejected by Africans"
New York Times (www.nytimes.com) (08/22/00) P. A6; Swarns, Rachel
South Africa and Namibia have refused the United States' offer
of $1 billion in yearly loans to finance the purchase of AIDS drugs.
The African countries stated that affordable drugs are needed and
that the loans would only burden their economies and send them
further into debt. The U.S. Export-Import Bank made the loan
offer to 24 southern African countries, but none have formally
accepted the offer so far. Developing countries have been urging
the West to make less expensive anti-AIDS drugs and to allow poor
countries to overcome patents in order to manufacture generic
versions of the drugs. Earlier this year, the Clinton
administration issued an executive order promising not to
interfere with African countries that did not follow American
patent law to secure cheaper drugs. Dr. Kalumbi Shangula, the
permanent secretary for the Namibian Ministry of Health, believes
that efforts to support generic drugs are more helpful than loan
programs. He stated that accepting the loans would send the
country "deeply into debt."
"Battling AIDS in Africa by Empowering Women"
New York Times (www.nytimes.com) (08/22/00) P. D3; Dreifus,
An interview with Dr. Nancy Padian, an epidemiologist who
is director of research for the AIDS Research Institute of the
University of California at San Francisco, sheds light on her
work in Zimbabwe. Dr. Padian commutes between San Francisco and
Harare to teach Zimbabwean health workers about how to control
the AIDS epidemic. By running studies on the effects of
contraception in preventing HIV in women, Padian teaches the
women to use barrier methods like condoms. She explains that
women have little power to negotiate condom use, but she teaches
them to plan for obstacles. Compared to American women, women in
southern Africa are much more vulnerable to HIV because of there
is a higher prevalence of other sexually transmitted diseases;
some women engage in "dry sex," using chemical or other means to
dry up cervical and vaginal secretions prior to having sex; and
it is not unusual for African men to have several sex partners.
Being married is a risk factor for HIV in Zimbabwe, Padian
explains, because the women are typically monogamous, but their
husbands may not be. The infection rate in Zimbabwe is about 25
percent to 30 percent. Padian notes, "The bottom line,
universally is, If you cannot negotiate what you are doing with
your body, you will not be able to lead a healthy and long life."
- "Gates Foundation on Big Funding Spree"
Science (www.sciencemag.org) (08/11/00) Vol. 289, No. 5481, P.
845; Hagmann, Michael
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made several large
donations for health studies recently. These include $40 million
for the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to study
malaria, $44.7 million for the Harvard Medical School for
tuberculosis (TB), $20 million to Johns Hopkins School of Public
Health for child and maternal health, and $90 million for
HIV/AIDS-related studies at a number of institutions. Jim Yong
Kim of Harvard Medical School--working with the World Health
Organization, local health officials, and others--will be
investigating a treatment program for multidrug-resistant TB
patients in Peru.
"President Urges Nigeria to Fight Tyranny of AIDS"
New York Times (www.nytimes.com) (08/28/00) P. A1; Lacey, Marc
President Clinton, in his visit to Nigeria this week, has
urged the country to confront AIDS and overcome taboos. This is a
challenge not just for Nigeria but for all of Africa, which has
been slow to educate its people about AIDS and the virus that
causes the disease. Clinton said, "We have to break the silence
about how this disease spreads and how to prevent it. And we
need to fight AIDS, not people with AIDS." Clinton offered
American support for Nigeria's battle against AIDS, but he did
not offer any new funding. He did, however, discuss the $20
million the United States is providing to control AIDS, malaria,
and polio in Nigeria this year. Clinton stated that freedom for
Nigeria would come only after infectious diseases are controlled.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo also urged debt relief for
his country. He noted, "We don't see [AIDS] as a Nigerian
disease. We see it as a world disease that is ravaging Africa
most." According to the White House, approximately 5.4 percent
of Nigeria's 114 million people are infected with HIV.
- "African Leaders to Meet Annan, Discuss Flash Points"
Reuters (www.reuters.com) (09/05/00); Mseteka, Buchizya
The presidents of South Africa, Malawi, Namibia, and Zimbabwe
will meet with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today
to discuss war, debt relief, and AIDS in their countries.
According to analysts, Africa's huge debt load has forced many
countries to spend more on debt problems than on health issues
like AIDS. U.N. statistics indicate that Africa needs at least
$3 billion annually to battle AIDS.
"AIDS Activists Take South African Government to Court"
Lancet (www.thelancet.com) (08/26/00) Vol. 356, No. 9231, P. 746;
South African AIDS activists plan to take their government to
court because it refuses to provide HIV-positive pregnant women
with drugs to help prevent vertical transmission of HIV. The
Treatment Action Campaign set an August 18 deadline for the
health department to change its policies on treating pregnant
women. After no response, legal action is expected. Health
Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang recently announced that clinics
will be chosen for research into nevirapine's use in protecting
newborns from HIV. Antiretroviral drugs are only available in
South Africa on a trial basis at selected sites. After the big
AIDS conference in July, activists had hoped that a shift in
policy would take place. The health department has offered
several reasons for not providing the drugs, including toxicity
and their high price.
- (a major step forward from Mugabe)
"Mugabe Announces That AIDS Had Killed Ministers"
PANA Wire Service (www.africanews.org/PANA) (09/07/00)
Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe, told participants at the
United Nations Millennium Summit this week that three of his
cabinet ministers and many traditional chiefs have died from AIDS
in the last several years. Mugabe asked for international help
to fight the disease, which is taking the lives of an estimated
2,000 Zimbabweans a week. Mugabe, who also noted he has lost a
"countless number" of extended family members to AIDS, encouraged
global participation to halt the epidemic.
"Trade in Infected Blood Raises International Furor"
Reuters Health Information Services (www.reutershealth.com)
(09/06/00); Kumar, Sanjay
Austrian, Swiss, and U.K. officials are trying to track down
blood plasma contaminated with HIV, hepatitis C, and syphilis,
that was allegedly sold by South African firms to brokers in
Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Authorities fear that
brokers have been selling relabeled contaminated blood products
to various countries for over 10 years. A recent confidential
investigation conducted by South Africa's Department of Health
determined that infected blood plasma not suitable for human use
had been exported within the past decade. Although he noted that
more information is needed about the situation, Dr. Luc Noel--the
coordinator of blood transfusion safety for the World Health
Organization--said that anyone who relabels unsafe blood
products, thus putting others at risk, should be punished.
- "U.S. Efforts on HIV/AIDS and Infectious Diseases"
U.S. Newswire (www.usnewswire.com) (09/08/00)
The Clinton administration has released a statement showing its
strong support for United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's
call for international action to fight HIV. The statement notes
that the White House also backs Annan's recommendation that
health research be focused on issues that affect the majority of
the world's people. AIDS, for example, took the lives of 2.8
million people in 1999, while millions continue to die from
vaccine-preventable infections and many more die from disease
which still need vaccines, including AIDS and malaria. The
statement also lists actions the administration has taken that
support the recommendations of the U.N. Millennium Report in
terms of the threat of global disease issues.
- Howdy to all of you in ujeni world. I am sending this lettle update as I
am changing all of my addresses. Email jsrinbf@.... Snailmail is
jsr/BP110/Kaya/Burkina Faso. I have to mosey off to the A's game
now...the mighty Devil Rays are in town. Love to all.
- "Nurse in Malawi Wages War on AIDS and Apathy"
New York times (www.nytimes.com) (11/07/00) P. A12; Crossette,
Nurse Catherine Phiri of Malawi contracted HIV during the
rule of Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who prohibited any public discussion
of the disease. When a democratic government took over in 1994,
Phiri founded a support group for anyone affected by HIV, and
last month, she received a Race Against Poverty Award from the
United Nations Development Program and UNAIDS. Phiri said the
new president of Malawi, Bakili Muluzi, has helped increase
awareness about HIV and AIDS. She also noted that the press is
now free enough to help show residents the extent of the problem
in the country, where 25 percent of the urban work force is
expected to die from AIDS within 10 years. Phiri said, "I hope
that we will be recognized by being given the award, and that the
government will now have something to do with us. ... I've been
writing [the president] proposals that have never been answered."
The three other recipients of the Race Against Povery Awards were
Maire Bopp Dupont, a radio journalist who has worked to inform
Pacific islanders about AIDS; Rita Arauz, a Nicaraguan
psychologist who set up a foundation to study and deal with HIV
and other sexually transmitted infections; and the Rev. Arkadiusz
Nowak, a priest who opened the first AIDS hospice in Poland.
"AIDS Smothers African Kingdom; Swaziland: AIDS Is Destroying a
Baltimore Sun (www.sunspot.net) (11/04/00) P. 1A; Murphy, John
Swaziland, located between South Africa and Mozambique, has
been ineffective at responding to the AIDS epidemic thus far. The
latest measures involved parliament banning miniskirts in schools
to reduce sex between teachers and students. AIDS activists in
Swaziland struggle against the country's traditions and shame
surrounding AIDS. Out of a population of 1 million, an estimated
22 percent are infected with HIV, and 40 percent of all pregnant
women are HIV-positive. According to Christabel Motsa,
chairwoman of the government's crisis committee on disease,
people there are afraid to talk about AIDS and deny that it is a
problem. Tradition is hard to overcome, as the kingdom is ruled
by a monarch with seven wives. Polygamy is rampant in rural
areas, and contraceptives are ignored. King Mswati declared HIV
a national disaster last year and has urged HIV testing, but
proposals to place HIV-infected people in camps or sterile them
highlight the mindset of the kingdom. Without frank talk about
AIDS, little prevention or treatment can be reached. Motsa is
worried that her group's five-year plan to fight AIDS will be
overshadowed by odd suggestions from lawmakers. The nation's
plan will center on AIDS prevention and education of traditional
- "African and US Leaders Sign Agreement on AIDS"
Reuters Health Information Services (www.reutershealth.com)
(11/16/00); Clark, Margaret A.
A new document approved earlier this week by 24 African nations,
representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, U.S. policy
advisors, and researchers focuses on fighting AIDS in Africa.
The document, "Principles of Collaboration: When Confronting AIDS
in Africa," is expected to serve as a basis for an AIDS alliance
between the United States and Africa; however, Dr. Richard
Marlink, head of the Harvard AIDS Institute, which hosted the
summit, noted that African nations must be the ones to take the
initiative. The agreement urges African countries to determine
their needs and set their priorities in terms of AIDS,
specifically prevention efforts to keep the virus from spreading
further and treatment for people already infected with HIV.
"Carter Urges Africans to Take Initiative on AIDS"
Agence France Presse (www.afp.com) (11/16/00)
Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter said Thursday that African
leaders must take the initiative in the war against AIDS, to help
prevent the destruction of national economies and even entire
cultures. Carter, writing in the International Herald Tribune
newspaper, detailed a three-point strategy to help fight the
epidemic. He noted, "AIDS now exceeds malaria as the single
leading cause of death [in Africa], turning back the clock on
hard-won gains in life expectancy achieved by many countries in
recent decades." Carter's plan calls on heads of state and
governments to publicly acknowledge the threat of AIDS and
address the issue on television and radio. The proposal also
recommends that African nations and international partners focus
on preventing new cases of HIV and providing affordable medical
care for those already infected. The last point of Carter's plan
calls for broad partnerships, because "this problem is bigger
than any one country, agency, group, or individual."
"Annan Says TV Should Help Educate Developing World"
Reuters (www.reuters.com) (11/17/00); Bases, Daniel
Television should be used to both inform and educate
people in the developing world, according to United Nations
Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Annan, speaking at the fifth
annual U.N. World Television Forum, noted that new information
technology could help encourage economic growth and also reduce
poverty. However, he warned that while television can inform
people about the value of advances like the Internet, it also
must help with literacy and other basic issues. Harri Holkeri,
the president of the U.N. General Assembly, also pointed out that
the new technology can be used to help promote awareness of
diseases like AIDS in the developing world.
- "HIV's Onslaught Slows Down in Africa"
USA Today (www.usatoday.com) (11/28/00) P. 11D; Sternberg, Steve
A United Nations report to be released today indicates that the
number of new HIV case in sub-Saharan Africa dropped slightly
this year, although prospects for the region are still grim.
UNAIDS head Dr. Peter Piot warned that the decline is "no reason
to cry victory. It doesn't make us very optimistic." Possible
reasons for why the sub-Saharan epidemic has stabilized, Piot
said, could be that prevention efforts may have helped in several
nations or that the people at greatest risk of infection have
already contracted HIV. Meanwhile in Russia, the number of new
HIV infections skyrocketed from 130,000 in 1999 to 300,000 this
year. Piot predicted that if this pace of new infections
continues, the country could see over 1 million HIV cases by
2005. Globally, an estimated 5.3 million people have contracted
HIV this year, including 600,000 children aged 15 or younger.
Some 72 percent of the new HIV infections are in southern Africa.
"U.N. Takes AIDS Battle to Internet"
Atlanta Journal-Constitution (www.accessatlanta.com) (11/28/00)
P. 5C; McKenna, M.A.J.
As the number of HIV infections worldwide continues to soar, an
online project of the United Nations Development Program offers a
suggestion for how people can help. Located at www.NetAid.org,
the site focuses primarily on extreme poverty; however, an
HIV/AIDS program was recently added. The program asks for
donations to buy "kits"--specific amounts for supplies, training,
and transportation--to help fight AIDS in Third World nations.
The site provides detailed data sheets for every project and a
"donation counter" to show how much has been donated and spent
for each program.
"[AIDS in South Africa]"
Christian Science Monitor (www.csmonitor.com) (11/24/00) P. 24
A recent insurance industry conference in Cape Town warned that
unless aggressive measures are taken to stem the spread of HIV
and to improve treatment for those already infected, AIDS will
take the life of one South African every minute within five
years. According to a statement from Lifeworks, an industry
organization established to deal with AIDS, the disease is "the
single most strategic issue facing our economy."
- "South African Village Prepares for First HIV Vaccine Trial"
Nature Medicine (medicine.nature.com) (11/00) Vol. 6, No. 11, P.
1199; Connett, Harold
South Africa's Medical Research Council plans to begin HIV
vaccine trials in February 2001, with phase III tests slated for
completion by 2005. The trial will test a Venezuelan equine
encephalitis (VEE) virus vaccine, which uses an attenuated form
of VEE with genes from subtype C isolates of South African
seroconverters. Robert Olmstead, vice president at AlphaVax the
vaccine producer, said that VEE targets lymphoid tissue and will
be a good source. The South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative is
funding development of the vaccine, together with the U.S.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the
International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. Informing trial subjects
regarding the vaccine has been a careful process, requiring the
trust of South African tribal leaders. Hlabisa, which is located
about four hours from Durban, is the site of the phase II and III
trials. Health workers have been training educators to reach the
Hlabisa area, using song and dance to communicate HIV prevention messages.
"New Cases of HIV Decline in Africa for First Time"
Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) (11/29/00) P. A3; Brown,
A new report from UNAIDS indicates that the number of people who
contracted HIV in sub-Saharan Africa declined this year for the
first time. Officials noted, however, that the finding must be
interpreted with caution, because it is not known whether the
drop is an actual turning point or just something temporary.
"The least we can say is that the trend of an accelerating
epidemic is now slowing down, and perhaps going down," said Dr.
Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS. Worldwide, there were
5.3 million new HIV infections this year, compared to 5.6 million
in 1999. The number of people living with HIV or AIDS increased
from 33.6 million last year to 36.1 million this year, while the
number of deaths from the disease also rose, from 2.6 million to
3 million. The report showed the Eastern Europe and the former
Soviet Union saw substantial increases in HIV cases, rising from
420,000 in 1999 to 700,000 now. Furthermore, UNAIDS' estimates
indicate that more than 50 percent of Russia's 300,000 people
with HIV contracted the disease this year. "What we had
predicted and fear is now happening," said Piot, "and that is an
explosion of HIV."
"U.N. Requests $3 Billion From Western Governments to Combat AIDS
Crisis in Africa"
Philadelphia Inquirer (www.philly.com) (11/29/00); Collins,
Western governments need to give $3 billion a year for the next
five years to fight the growing AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan
Africa, the United Nations said Tuesday. Also, during a
teleconference with AIDS activists in South Africa and the United
States, the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders
called on the five top drug firms to reduce the prices of their
AIDS drugs in poor nations by 95 percent starting in January. In
response, pharmaceutical industry spokesman Mark Grayson said
they have already made a deal with Senegal for price cuts and
similar agreements are planned for other countries in Africa. A
new "report card" for the drug firms shows that American AIDS
activists gave the companies failing grades on their vows to
increase access to lifesaving drugs for poor people in Africa.
"Pfizer Offers AIDS Drug to South Africa"
Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com) (11/29/00) P. A3; Zimmerman,
Pfizer is expected to announce on December 1, World AIDS Day,
that it will donate $50 million worth of its antifungal drug
Diflucan, which is used by many AIDS patients, to South Africa
over two years. New statistics from the United Nations and the
World Health Organization show there were 3.8 million new HIV
infections in sub-Saharan Africa last year and that about 70
percent of all HIV-infected adults worldwide live in the region.
Under the deal, Pfizer would provide Diflucan free of charge to
individuals with cryptococcal meningitis and a kind of meningitis
of the esophagus that results from thrush and affects between 20
percent and 40 percent of AIDS patients. South African and U.S.
AIDS activists, as well as the humanitarian group Doctors Without
Borders, have criticized the drug company's offer, calling it a
public-relations move that will likely include several
restrictions on the drug's distribution.
"South Africa: Benefit of Anti-Retrovirals Outweigh the Risks--US
Africa News Service (www.africanews.org) (11/29/00); Harvey,
U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher stated Tuesday that the
benefits of antiretroviral treatments outweigh any risks
involved. Speaking at a press briefing in Pretoria, Satcher said
the drugs have been especially useful in preventing
mother-to-child HIV transmission in the United States, and also
for treating people with AIDS. The price of the drugs is high,
Satcher admitted, and he noted that South Africa and the United
States are in very different situations regarding the
affordability of the medicines. The surgeon general did say,
however, that Brazil is in a very "similar [socioeconomic] place"
to South Africa, and that country's government has established
the necessary infrastructure to provide the drugs and also
reduced the price of the treatments by manufacturing them
locally. The briefing was for the Health Working Group of the
US-SA Bi-National Commission's special meeting on HIV/AIDS, which
was chaired by Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and
Satcher. The two officials signed a joint agreement for better
financial and political cooperation on AIDS.
"South Africa: Truckers Take to the Road for AIDS"
Africa News Service (www.africanews.org) (11/29/00); Harvey,
On Friday, World AIDS Day, 100 truck drivers will participate in
a special procession to South Africa's Department of Transport,
to highlight the spread of HIV infection among drivers in the
country. According to Marlea Clarke, a University of Capetown
researcher, three truck drivers die every day from AIDS-related
conditions. There are concerns that the drivers could be one of
the groups that have a key role on the spread of the virus in
South Africa, as prostitutes line major highways. Clarke noted
that the average truck driver spends three days or less at home
every month, and "there is [a] flourishing commercial sex network
along the freeway system in the region." Clarke said that mine
workers, who also visit sex workers frequently, are at risk for
HIV infection as well.
- I have a research question for anybody interested in the following article
that Liz posted. How can UNAIDS measure 'new' HIV infections with such
authority? Slightly sceptical but also interested in how they come about
these numbers - if anyone can enlighten me.
>"New Cases of HIV Decline in Africa for First Time"
>Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) (11/29/00) P. A3; Brown,
> A new report from UNAIDS indicates that the number of people who
>contracted HIV in sub-Saharan Africa declined this year for the
>first time. Officials noted, however, that the finding must be
>interpreted with caution, because it is not known whether the
>drop is an actual turning point or just something temporary.
>"The least we can say is that the trend of an accelerating
>epidemic is now slowing down, and perhaps going down," said Dr.
>Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS. Worldwide, there were
>5.3 million new HIV infections this year, compared to 5.6 million
>in 1999. The number of people living with HIV or AIDS increased
>from 33.6 million last year to 36.1 million this year, while the
>number of deaths from the disease also rose, from 2.6 million to
>3 million. The report showed the Eastern Europe and the former
>Soviet Union saw substantial increases in HIV cases, rising from
>420,000 in 1999 to 700,000 now. Furthermore, UNAIDS' estimates
>indicate that more than 50 percent of Russia's 300,000 people
>with HIV contracted the disease this year. "What we had
>predicted and fear is now happening," said Piot, "and that is an
>explosion of HIV."
Get more from the Web. FREE MSN Explorer download : http://explorer.msn.com
- They go to a hospital this year on this day. They count the AIDS victims.
Then they come back next month, next year, etc., and count the umber of
cases, minus the number who have died, then they have their new
number...Very scientific, just like their extrapolations of 33% infection
among city dwellers they were tossing around about five years back.
Get more from the Web. FREE MSN Explorer download : http://explorer.msn.com
- "AIDS Drugs for Africa"
Scientific American (www.sciam.com) (11/00) Vol. 283, No. 5, P.
98; Ezzell, Carol
The AIDS epidemic in Africa faces many obstacles, but the
chief one is finding affordable antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV
transmission to newborns and to treat those already infected.
Most developed nations now routinely offer antiviral therapies to
HIV-infected mothers; however, there are few clinics in Africa
that can offer the drugs to these women. Cost is a determining
factor, as the drugs often cost more than many Africans'
salaries. Five companies have agreed to cut their drug prices to
Africa by 80 percent, but that alone will not be a solution.
According to David Bloom, a professor at Harvard University
School of Public Health, AIDS is tied into poverty and a lack of
health infrastructure. Lower drug costs must be accompanied by
testing to measure the drugs' success in each patient. Rampant
poverty in South Africa makes the drug AZT unattainable. With
the help of a discounted price, AZT costs 40 cents for each
100-milligram pill. Nevirapine is another drug that offers hope
to prevent HIV transmission to infants. It requires only three
doses and has been shown to reduce transmission to 14 percent for
a trial of 652 pregnant women. AZT, by contrast, requires months
of treatment. South Africa has not accepted an offer of
nevirapine from Boehringer Ingelheim, as Health Minister Manto
Tshabalala-Msimang said they do not believe the only answer to
AIDS is antiretroviral therapy. The government's plan to prevent
HIV is to treat AIDS-related infections, and form home-based
care, she said. Tshabalala-Msimang noted that even an 80 percent
reduction in price would still not be affordable for the 4.2
million HIV-infected individuals in South Africa. If the issue
of price is ever overcome, patients would then face the need for
resistance testing. HIV's ability to mutate quickly requires
careful monitoring of a patient's therapy. Testing CD4 cells and
viral load is expensive, however, and not stressed in places like
Thailand. Christopher Ouma, a worker for Doctors Without Borders
in Nairobi, Kenya, believes Africa cannot wait for viral load
testing to become the norm, since they need the drugs now. And
even after antivirals become widely available to Africa, the
trick will be adhering to the difficult therapy, which requires a
strict timetable and food requirements.
"U.N.'s Annan Demands War Against AIDS in Africa"
Reuters (www.reuters.com) (12/07/00); Murray, Kieran
Speaking at a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, United
Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said African leaders must make
fighting AIDS their top priority. Annan noted that the disease
has taken the lives of millions of people, and it is also a key
impediment to fighting poverty in the developing world and could
affect political stability. The official called for concerted,
comprehensive action against AIDS; however, he pointed out that
while the world is prepared to spend billions of dollars battling
the disease, African officials must work to make sure the money
goes where it is needed most. Annan also said that while the
majority of AIDS cases are in Africa, the disease is also
spreading rapidly in Eastern Europe, Russia, and India, and these
regions could face a situation like the one in Africa unless
aggressive steps are taken.
"More Evidence Supports Congo as the World's HIV-1 Epicenter"
Reuters Health Information Services (www.reutershealth.com)
A team of researchers from France, Congo, and the United
Kingdom has identified a high level of genetic diversity within
HIV-1 group M in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The scientists
studied 247 HIV-1 isolates from three parts of the country and
characterized them for diversity within the HIV-1 envelope
protein V3-V5 region. According to their report in the Journal
of Virology (2000;74:10498-10507), the most common subtype was
subtype A; however, all known HIV-1 group M subtypes were
identified in the samples. The researchers, noting a high level
of intrasubtype genetic diversity in the isolates and high levels
of possible recombinant viruses, said the findings lend support
to Congo being the epicenter of HIV-1 group M viruses.
"Bottled Up: As UNICEF Battles Baby-Formula Makers, African
Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com) (12/05/00) P. A1; Freedman,
Alix M.; Stecklow, Steve
Between 1.1 million and 1.7 million infants, mostly in Africa,
have contracted HIV from breast-feeding. Often in the developing
world, HIV-infected mothers are not told that infant formula is
an alternative to breast-feeding that could help protect their
children from AIDS. The issue has pitted the $3 billion
infant-formula industry, which says it is prepared to donate
loads of free formula to infected women, against UNICEF, which
will not approve the donations because it does not want to
support an industry that it has accused of abusive practices in
developing nations. During the 1970s, Nestle SA and other
formula companies aggressively promoted formula in developing
nations; however, by the time the free samples were used up, the
women were often no longer producing their own milk and the
formula was too expensive for them to buy. As some women diluted
the milk to make it last longer and some babies starved as a
result, a global boycott of Nestle was organized by activists and
UNICEF began to reject cash donations from any of the large
formula makers--something it has also done with land mine
producers and cigarette companies. In the 1980s, UNICEF and the
World Health Organization developed a voluntary marketing code
for formula makers, one which restricted advertising and
virtually prohibited the distribution of free and low-cost
formula. But that code was not developed with the AIDS epidemic
in mind, and many experts say UNICEF should look past previous
events to help poor mothers with HIV and their babies. However,
UNICEF head Carol Bellamy asserts that "breast is best," and she
points out that the lack of adequate sanitation in many areas
poses its own risks for formula users, possibly exposing babies
to diarrhea and other deadly diseases, while antibodies in breast
milk could help prevent such illnesses. Research indicates that
about 15 percent of HIV-infected pregnant women in Africa will
transmit the virus to their infants via breast-feeding. UNICEF
officials have also voiced concerns that giving formula to
HIV-infected mothers could affect support for breast-feeding
among healthy mothers. Two years ago, UNICEF and other United
Nations agencies modified their position on breast-feeding in the
developing world. The "informed choice" policy holds that
infected women should be told about the benefits and risks of
breast-feeding and of alternatives like formula, but the
statement does not say how poor HIV-infected women who want to
use formula are supposed to obtain it.
- "Suddenly, a Plan to Treat AIDS in Africa"
Boston Globe (www.boston.com/globe) (02/13/01) P. A1; Donnelly,
In response to the recent pricing drop for AIDS drug cocktails in
the world's poorest nations, economists, scientists, AIDS
specialists and politicians have designed a "blueprint" for
treatment to be used in countries where the greatest need is.
The blueprint calls for wealthy nations to pay for the drugs,
paring the price of AIDS cocktails down to $500 annually per
patient, and the selection of two African nations and more than
one dozen projects to be set up as working models. When
successful, the models could be replicated and repeated across
Africa. Initially, the projects will focus only on individuals
with full-blown AIDS, and the plan also calls for piggybacking
treatment with existing tuberculosis-control programs.
"World Bank Grants $473 Million Loan to Ethiopia"
Reuters (www.reuters.com) (02/14/01)
Ethiopia has been granted a $473 million loan from the World Bank
to aid in the nation's post-war efforts to rebuild. According to
Wednesday's announcement by the ministry of finance, $65 million
of the loan will be used toward the fight against HIV. An
estimated 3 million Ethiopians have HIV or AIDS.
"South Africa Mining Firms Test Workers for AIDS"
Reuters (www.reuters.com) (02/13/01); Swindells, Steven
Anglo American Platinum, a major South African mining firm,
has gained the union's approval to begin testing miners in the
country for HIV. The results of the anonymous testing is
expected to have a significant impact on the overall mining
business, which represents the majority of Africa's foreign
exchange revenue. Economic consultants from WEFA South Africa
estimate that 4 million semi- and unskilled South African
laborers could die from the disease between 2010 and 2015, with
the most significant impact among miners. Health experts said
Tuesday that an estimated 25 percent of South Africa's 500,000
miners may be infected with HIV.
"Zambia: Government Sets Aside K31 Billion for AIDS Fight"
Africa News Service (www.africanews.org) (02/13/01)
Zambia's finance and economic development deputy minister Godfrey
Simasiku said the government has earmarked 31 billion kwacha for
the battle against AIDS. Simasiku, speaking to group of
businessmen and civic leaders at a budget meeting in Solwezi last
Friday, also said that the number of AIDS orphans in the country
could increase from about 700,000 now to 1 million in the next
four to five years.
- "Toward a Global AIDS Fund"
New York Times (05.02.01)
"The public attention given in recent months to Africa's
AIDS crisis has not been matched with money," began the editors.
"Last year the world spent about $1 billion on AIDS in
developing countries-a sum that will not even buy adequate
prevention campaigns, much less health infrastructure, care for
AIDS orphans and necessary medicines for the sick." The editors
noted UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's speech last week at the
African AIDS summit in Nigeria, which "lays out a solid basis
for a global attack on AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria." In his
speech, Annan called for a global AIDS fund totaling $7 billion
to $10 billion a year to help stem the epidemic.
The editors projected how a global AIDS fund would be used.
"At least initially," they wrote, "a large part of the money
will go toward building a health infrastructure in the African
nations most ravaged by AIDS." The editors are encouraged that
"African leaders from 43 nations have pledged to increase their
spending on health, and especially on AIDS," which "is a welcome
sign that African leaders are taking AIDS and health issues more
But the global AIDS fund will depend on more than Africa's
commitment to improving its AIDS-fighting programs, and the
editors fear that US contributions won't be enough. "The global
AIDS fund ... is likely to be handicapped by a lack of leadership
from the United States. While Bush administration officials speak
about AIDS as a catastrophe, the president's 2002 budget adds
less than 10 percent to this year's spending for AIDS overseas....
Former President Clinton suggested to the Nigeria AIDS conference
that Washington should provide a quarter of the global AIDS fund.
President Bush's budget falls more than $1 billion short of
that," the editors concluded.
"First Rule of AIDS in Africa: Do No Harm"
Wall Street Journal (05.02.01) Holman W Jenkins, Jr
The editorial addressed the ongoing debate surrounding the
pharmaceutical industry's price reductions for AIDS drugs,
specifically for those countries in Africa ravaged by the
disease. "There is no doubt that a strictly applied drug regimen
could prolong millions of African lives, but high prices have
nothing to do with why it's not happening," insisted the author.
"If Africans and other Third Worlders are left out, it's not
because of 'corporate greed' but because there is no price at
which they would become customers for antiretroviral therapy,"
the author said, citing that several drug companies offered AIDS
drugs to African governments at or below manufacturing cost, but
"There were no takers."
The author discussed the difficulty that delivering and
managing drug treatment in Africa would present. He quoted a
recent issue of Patient Care that concurred: "'Patients need to
be told specifically about the serious consequences of
nonadherence and that treatment failure may result if even a few
doses are missed.'" The author pointed to a San Francisco
General Hospital study that found that "anything less than 95%
compliance can raise to 50% the chances of treatment failing and
a resistant virus emerging." And, "This is to say nothing of the
long-term toxicities that have emerged," which include liver
failure, kidney failure, a weakening of the bones, nausea,
diarrhea, vomiting, lactic acidosis and a skewed fat metabolism.
The author also noted how "many of the drugs come with stringent
dietary restrictions" that are much easier to adhere to in the
Western world where "patients have access to adequate nutrition
in sanitary conditions and clean water."
"Today's high prices represent not an absence of
competition but an absence of piracy," the author continued.
Drug companies have brought out 20 antiretrovirals since AZT was
introduced, he said, and such "progress doesn't come cheap." He
warned in conclusion, "This work will come to a screeching halt
if the mau-mau crowd wins the day because recovering [research
and development] costs would become impossible. And somewhere
down the road lies a drug that really would help save African
"What the World Needs Now"
POZ (05.01) Gregg Bordowitz
Leaders of the three-year-old South Africa-based Treatment
Action Campaign (TAC) have succeeded in issuing a wake-up call to
governments and pharmaceutical companies around the world. Last
July, TAC activists seized the world stage with a massive protest
before the AIDS Conference in Durban. In November, TAC led the
way to the first-ever waiver allowing importation of a generic
medication for South Africa's 4 million people with HIV. And it
was TAC's call to make HIV and opportunistic infection medicines
available to all HIV-positive South Africans that finally brought
drug companies to the negotiating table regarding price
reductions for AIDS drugs in developing countries.
At TAC's helm is 38-year-old, gay, HIV-positive activist
Zackie Achmat, who was jailed and beaten by police for his anti-
apartheid efforts in the late 1970s. In October he was arrested
and charged with illegal importation of drugs for bringing 5,000
capsules of Biozole, the Thai version of Pfizer's patented
fluconazole, into South Africa. Yet Achmat refuses to take
medications himself. Supporters have offered to purchase
antiretroviral drugs for him outright, but he has publicly
declared that he will not take any drugs unless they are
available to everyone in South Africa. "I have decided not to
take antiretrovirals because I don't want to live in a world that
devalues the lives of poor people simply because they are poor. I
could never look those people in the eye, and I couldn't lead
them, if I was taking my medicines while they were going
without," Achmat told POZ.
Achmat's pledge is a display of the kind of leadership that
could turn around the AIDS epidemic. In three short years, TAC
has not only pushed the South African government to expand HIV
drug access, it has also helped establish an activist network
among poor nations producing, procuring and distributing quality
medicines despite trade restrictions and drug industry pressure.
"It's the activism that pushed my CD4 counts up. It's the fact
that I have so many more friends now-people with and without
HIV-because they realize that we are doing something together
and we can win. Not because of the stand I've taken, but because
TAC is giving them hope," Achmat said.
"Annan Speaks About the Fight Against AIDS"
Associated Press (05.01.01) Gina Cappello
"The world has the resources to defeat this epidemic if it
really wants to," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said of the
global AIDS epidemic Monday. "But at present, there's a lot of
confusion about how the money should be raised, where it should
be directed and who can ensure that it's well spent." Annan
addressed more than 2,000 philanthropists and business leaders at
the 52nd annual conference for the Council on Foundations, urging
public and private organizations to work together to fight the
spread of HIV and AIDS. Annan once again suggested the creation
of a global fund dedicated to the battle against HIV/AIDS and
other diseases to be brought before the June 25 special UN
session on HIV and AIDS.
"IMF Urges Countries to Contribute to AIDS Fund"
Associated Press (05.01.01) Harry Dunphy
At the conclusion of the spring meetings of the
International Monetary Fund and World Bank, finance ministers and
central bank governors announced their support for the
establishment of a global fund to combat AIDS and other diseases.
The ministers pledged there would be a substantial increase in
funds to fight AIDS and other infectious diseases in poor
countries. "What's clear now is that the commitment is growing
by leaps and bounds, particularly among finance ministers in the
industrialized countries as we saw this weekend," said Chris
Lovelace, director of World Bank's unit for health, population
- I have a new hero:
"Catholic Bishops to Fight AIDS"
South African Press Association (07.27.01)
Catholic bishops from across southern Africa gathered on
Wednesday at St. Peter's Seminary in Garsfontein, Pretoria, to
attend the Southern African Catholic Bishop's Conference (SACBC).
Bishop Reginald Cawcutt, spokesperson, said the six-day
conference was aimed at preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. A
substantial part of the conference's discussions will focus on
the AIDS and a proposal that the church reconsider its ban on
condoms to combat the spread of disease, he said.
Almost five million South Africans are HIV-infected. Earlier
this month in the United States, Rustenburg Bishop Kevin Dowling
proposed that the church's ban on condoms be lifted, saying AIDS
was killing so many people he felt he could not duck the issue.
Dowling was supported in his proposal by the Catholic newspaper
Southern Cross, which said condoms provided one way of stemming
the AIDS pandemic. The newspaper called on the church to
reconcile its total ban on contraception with the philosophy of
the sanctity of life.
SACBC President Cardinal Wilfrid Napier said Dowling's
statement would be weighed against not only the church's
teachings, but also scientific evidence on the effectiveness of
condoms in preventing infection. The conference will also focus
on Angola, whose government the church has accused of encouraging
sexual permissiveness through a recently launched campaign to
promote condom use. The conference wraps up on Monday.
"World Education Leaders Sound Alarm over AIDS Pandemic"
Agence France Presse (07.26.01)
The AIDS pandemic has had a bigger effect on teaching than
any other profession and threatens to wipe out the trade in
Africa within 10 years, a global conference heard Thursday. "The
percentage of teachers who have died or carry the HIV virus is
higher than for most professional groups," said Fred van
Leeuwen, secretary general of Education International (EI). The
confederation of about 300 teaching unions and organizations from
155 countries is holding a conference in Thailand focusing on
teaching in the age of globalization.
Some 35-40 percent of secondary school teachers in Botswana
are infected with HIV, the EI said. "In the next 10 years, if
nothing is done, the ranks of teachers will completely disappear
in Africa," said Monique Fouiloux, EI's AIDS specialist. There
are also concerns that teachers are abusing their position to
sexually exploit children under their care, helping fuel the
transmission of the deadly disease. This year in conjunction with
other international institutions including UNESCO, EI intends to
make AIDS prevention an integral part of its education mission.
In the process, it will have to counter significant cultural
barriers that hamper frank discussion of AIDS, a problem that is
particularly severe outside the cities. "In Botswana, the only
place where it is difficult to talk about AIDS is in rural
areas," said Japhta Radibe, a representative of the Botwsana
Teachers Union. "Even before HIV/AIDS, we had a shortage of
teachers, but the pandemic has aggravated it," she said.
"AIDS Costs Kenya Heavily"
According to Kenya's National AIDS Control Council, the
nation is losing about $2.6 million daily to the HIV/AIDS
epidemic. Speaking at the Nairobi Provincial AIDS Control
Committee workshop this week, Chair Mohammed Abdullah said that
certain practices are spreading the disease and his council is
now advocating an attitude change and measures to reduce
transmission. Chris Kirubi, a council member, urged the
government to end and criminalize female genital mutilation and
blamed the practice for helping the spread of HIV/AIDS. Other
measures recommended include ending prostitution along Nairobi
streets and curbing the influx of child prostitutes. Kenya is one
of the sub-Saharan African countries hardest hit by AIDS: 1.1
million Kenyans have died of the disease since 1984, and 2.2
million others are living with HIV.