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AFRO-NETS> Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Thu, 3 May 2001

Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Thu, 3 May 2001

Cipla to Provide AIDS Drugs to Nigeria

Indian generic drug manufacturer Cipla Ltd. announced yesterday that 
it would supply approximately US$ 3.5 million in AIDS drugs to Nige-
ria, the Wall Street Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 5/3). The 
company has signed a deal with the Nigerian ministry of health and 
plans to ship the first consignment out this month. The drugs will 
initially reach about 10,000 Nigerian patients at a cost of US$ 350 
per patient per year. Cipla Joint Managing Director Amar Lulla said 
that the company is "now extending the offer to [other] governments." 
Reuters Health reports that the deal comes "at a time when the much 
larger South African market for AIDS drugs is opening up to generic 
drug makers like Cipla." Analysts estimate that Cipla could sell up 
to US$ 50 million in AIDS drugs in South Africa in the first year of 
exports (Reuters Health, 5/2).

Nation Op-Ed Draws Parallels Between Drug Access and Antiapartheid 

The fight to obtain greater access to anti-AIDS drugs garnered a 
"broad spectrum of support" among workers, activists and "high-
powered lobbyists" in South Africa, inspiring a social movement and 
critique of the government not seen since the demise of the country's 
apartheid regime in 1994, Mark Gevisser, the Nation's Southern Africa 
correspondent, writes in an op-ed in the magazine. Gevisser gives 
much of the credit for this alliance to the South African advocacy 
group the Treatment Action Campaign, which "brilliantly mobilized" 
South African citizens to fight the lawsuit brought -- and later 
dropped -- by 39 pharmaceutical companies against a South African law 
that would grant the country greater access to generic medicines. Ge-
visser states that the "broad-based social movements that brought 
apartheid to its knees in the 1980s ossified into bureaucracy or 
withered into nonexistence." He writes that an example of the "conse-
quences" of such stagnation occurred in the early 1990s, when AIDS 
activists helped draft a National AIDS Plan. Although the plan was 
adopted by the African National Congress, it "was suffocated by red 
tape" and never implemented because AIDS activists "found themselves 
inside the system and thus bound by the inevitable constraints of 
government," Gevisser writes. However, he states, TAC leader Zackie 
Achmat's recent criticism of the South African government for failing 
to provide pregnant women with nevirapine to reduce vertical trans-
mission "appeal[s] to the broad left wing of South African society 
not only because of the government's manifest ineptitude in the face 
of a horrifying pandemic ... but because the battle for treatment was 
a perfect vehicle for taking on the heartlessness of global capital 
and the perceived wrongheadedness of the ANC government's neoliberal 
macroeconomic policy." Meanwhile, other left-wing groups such as the 
labor federation COSATU rally around the drug access issue because 
"it puts flesh on their critique of the government's quest for a bal-
anced budget in line with the World Bank's specifications, a quest 
that means less funding for programs like the provision of lifesaving 
medication," Gevisser states. He writes that despite the "battle 
lines [being] drawn again" between activists and the South African 
government, it "remains to be seen whether the victory against Big 
Pharma is anything more than symbolic." Gevisser concludes, "Its sig-
nificance, rather, is in its creation of a mass-based, independent, 
critically minded social movement that takes the best of South Af-
rica's tradition of struggle and engages it ... in a battle against 
the negative consequences of the global economy and the manipulation 
of institutions like the World Trade Organization by multinational 
corporations. The TAC's battle could provide the same brand of moral 
leadership in the global struggle that the antiapartheid movement did 
in decades past" (Gevisser, Nation, 5/14).

Cecilia Snyder

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