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    From:UN WIRE An Independent News Briefing about the United Nations ... http://www.unfoundation.org HEALTH HIV/AIDS: Experts To Develop African Medical
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 12, 2001
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      From:UN WIRE
      An Independent News Briefing about the United Nations
      --------------------------------------------------------------
      http://www.unfoundation.org
       
       

                 HEALTH
       
                 HIV/AIDS:  Experts To Develop African Medical Training Center
       
                 African and Western infectious disease experts have formed an alliance to build the
                 first state-of-the-art AIDS medical training facility in Africa in an effort to combat
                 the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  The facility, whose creation was formally announced
                 yesterday, will be built in Uganda and is expected to be completed in early 2002
                 with funding provided by the Pfizer Foundation.
       
                 "It's going to be a gold-standard kind of place, which is unrealistic in terms of care
                 (elsewhere) in Uganda, but we think we need that kind of facility for training," said
                 Canadian physician Allan Ronald , one of the co-founders of the alliance.
       
                 The center will be run by the Academic Alliance for AIDS Care and Prevention
                 in Africa  and the Ugandan government.  The center will train health care personnel
                 all over Africa in the latest AIDS treatment techniques, including management of
                 complex drugs.  Those professionals are then expected to return to their hospitals
                 and clinics to pass on the knowledge to their staffs.  The alliance is already working
                 with pharmaceutical companies to make available donated or low-cost clinic
                 supplies (Canadian Press, 11 Jun).
       
                 Besides training as many as 80 African clinicians a year, the center is also expected
                 to treat up to 50,000 patients "with the kind of care that is available in the
                 developed world but not yet widely used in Africa," said Nelson Sewankambo ,
                 dean of Uganda's Makerere University medical school (Karl Vick, Washington
                 Post, 12 Jun).
       
                 "This new approach will complement the work our own doctors are doing and
                 enrich the experience and knowledge of experts involved in the project both in
                 Uganda and in North America and Europe," said Ugandan President Yoweri
                 Museveni in a statement.
       
                 "The clinic will have an influence far beyond the doctors trained in it and the patients
                 whom we treat," said Dr. Jerrold Ellner , another founding alliance member and
                 one of the world's leading tuberculosis experts.  "It is a reverse pyramid.  Each
                 doctor can train dozens of other doctors and each doctor can treat 200 to 300
                 AIDS patients at any one time" (Canadian Press).
       
                 One of the US doctors involved in the project, Thomas Quinn, said that Kampala
                 was chosen as the site for the training center because Uganda has been the most
                 successful African country in its campaign to fight HIV/AIDS (Andrew Craig, BBC
                 Online , 11 Jun).
       
                 Pfizer Inc., the world's second largest drug maker, said it will spend $11 million
                 over the next three years to establish the training center.  Pfizer chair Henry
                 McKinnell said he also intends to lobby fellow manufacturers of AIDS treatment
                 drugs to donate or deeply discount another $50 million annually of advanced
                 anti-retroviral drugs.
       
                 "We're eliminating their excuses," said the alliance's co-director, Merle Sande ,
                 referring to pharmaceutical companies (Vick, Washington Post).  McKinnell also
                 said he hopes his company will maintain support for the project for at least a
                 decade.
       
                 Members of the alliance are hopeful the new center will prove it is possible to
                 establish an effective and sustainable HIV/AIDS care system in Africa, and said the
                 project's success could negate arguments that improving drug affordability is futile in
                 a region lacking proper health infrastructure.  "No one would have an excuse any
                 more to say we cannot introduce anti-retrovirals into Africa because we do not
                 have an effective infrastructure," Sande said (Mark Turner, Financial Times, 12
                 Jun).
       
                 The alliance is working closely with the public health and medical communities in
                 Uganda and intends to actively seek assistance from the Ugandan Health Ministry,
                 local organizations, the staff and faculty at Makerere University Medical School and
                 Mulago Hospital, the national hospital of Uganda (Academic Alliance for AIDS
                 Care & Prevention in Africa release, 11 Jun).
       
                 HIV/AIDS II:  IAVI Aims To Overcome Drug Makers' Wariness
       
                 The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative is bringing vaccine research back to the
                 fore "after two decades of frustration and neglect," according to Newsweek.  The
                 initiative is working not only to help develop vaccines but also to ensure that those
                 developed promptly reach the world's hardest-hit regions at affordable prices,
                 something the magazine calls "comparable in scale to the creation of the vaccine
                 itself."
       
                 Newsweek reports that while the United States and Europe spend $3 billion yearly
                 on HIV/AIDS treatments, only $350 million is spent worldwide on vaccine research
                 to stem what IAVI President Seth Berkley calls "the greatest plague since 1347."
                 Drug makers are wary of vaccines, Berkley says, because research and testing are
                 time-consuming and expensive, because a vaccine taken once is less profitable than
                 a treatment taken daily and because people in AIDS-ravaged poor countries are the
                 least likely to be able to pay for vaccines. 
       
                 "From the standpoint of maximizing return on investment," Berkley says, "you'd stay
                 far away from a vaccine."
       
                 Berkley is presenting IAVI's Web-based petition at the UN special session on
                 HIV/AIDS later this month and has been working to secure commitments from the
                 world's legislators to standardize regulations.  He has amassed a $230 million war
                 chest -- about the amount the US government spends yearly on vaccine research --
                 at IAVI, which acts as a nonprofit venture capital firm, investing in companies and
                 laboratories and helping to orchestrate trials, coordinate regulatory approvals and
                 set up purchase funds and distribution systems.  In return, IAVI partners agree to
                 sell or license products simultaneously in the developed and developing world and
                 to offer drugs at cost to poor countries.
       
                 "A lot of the public health community thinks companies are evil and ought to give
                 things away," Berkley says.  "That's fine as a short-term strategy, but pretty soon no
                 one's making new products" (Geoffrey Cowley, Newsweek , 11 Jun).
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