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AFRO-NETS> Kaiser daily HIV/AIDS Report - June 13th 2001

Kaiser daily HIV/AIDS Report - June 13th 2001

*African Advocacy Groups Call For Dismissal of USAID Director Natsios
  after 'Racist Comments'
*Ethiopian AIDS Council Launches New 'Safer Sex' Education Strategy
*Pfizer to Train Physicians in Antiretroviral Treatment in Uganda
*Pfizer to Solicit Other Drug Makers
*Ivory Coast's HIV-Positive Patients Still Unable to Afford AIDS
  Drugs, Health Care Infrastructure Needed


*African Advocacy Groups Call For Dismissal of USAID Director Natsios
after'Racist Comments'

African advocacy groups are calling for the dismissal of U.S. Agency
for International Development Director Andrew Natsios based on his
"shockingly racist comments" that many Africans "cannot tell time
well enough to take anti-AIDS drugs," the Washington Times reports.
When explaining on June 7 the Bush administration's intention to fo-
cus on prevention over treatment, Natsios said that many Africans "do
not know what watches or clocks are. They do not use Western means to
tell time. They use the sun. These [AIDS] drugs have to be adminis-
tered in certain sequences, at certain times during the day." Africa
Action, one of the "largest pro-Africa groups" in the United States,
has urged Secretary of State Colin Powell to "repudiate" Natsios'
comments. In a letter to Powell, Africa Action Director Salih Booker
wrote, "We are writing to express our deep sense of outrage at the
shockingly racist comments made by . Natsios. Someone such as
Mr. Natsios, with such ignorant and bigoted views, does not belong in
a policy-making position and should be fired." The letter includes
signatures from Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker of the Religious Action Network
and Sharonann Lynch of the Health GAP Coalition. A spokesperson for
Natsios said yesterday that he "meant no offense" by his comments
(Morrison, Washington Times, 6/12).


*Ethiopian AIDS Council Launches New 'Safer Sex' Education Strategy

Ethiopia's National AIDS Council on Saturday launched a new five-year
AIDS initiative focusing on education to "encourage safer sex,"
Reuters reports. Ethiopia was recently ranked as one of the five
countries hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic in a U.N. Population Divi-
sion wall chart released Thursday, titled "HIV/AIDS: Population Im-
pact and Policies 2001." Nearly three million of the country's 60
million people are HIV-positive, and more than 900,000 AIDS orphans
live in the country. Reuters reports that "[w]ar, poverty and igno-
rance have provided fertile ground for the spread of the disease in
Ethiopia." The National AIDS Council said in a statement, "If contin-
ued unchecked, HIV/AIDS will devastate the country's development. As
a whole, an estimated 5,000 people are newly infected each week." Of-
ficials estimate that up to one third of Ethiopians between the ages
of 15 and 20 could die of AIDS-related complications if the epidemic
is not "rapidly controlled" (Reuters, 6/9).


*Pfizer to Train Physicians in Antiretroviral Treatment in Uganda

The Academic Alliance for AIDS Care and Prevention in Africa an-
nounced yesterday the construction of a center in Kampala, Uganda, to
train African physicians in administering the "most advanced AIDS
drugs available," the Washington Post reports. Pfizer Inc. will con-
tribute $11 million over three years to establish and equip the
training center, intended to "begin preparing Africa's woeful health
systems for the anticipated infusion of Western assistance in fight-
ing the epidemic," the Post reports. The center, set to open next
year, hopes to train 80 African physicians annually and expects those
clinicians to "pas[s] on their knowledge" when they return home to
their own African nations (Vick, Washington Post, 6/12). Pfizer CEO
Henry McKinnell added, "What we do here, we train hundreds, who train
thousands, who educate tens of thousands, who treat millions. So
there is an opportunity here for this to really succeed" (Tomlinson,
AP/Contra Costa Times, 6/12).

*Pfizer to Solicit Other Drug Makers

Although Pfizer does not manufacture antiretrovirals, McKinnell, who
also is the chair of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry group PhRMA,
will solicit AIDS drug makers to donate or discount an additional $50
million worth of antiretrovirals to the program per year. Patients
receiving treatment at the center will pay what they can for treat-
ments, but many are expected to pay nothing. "We expect 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," Nelson Sewank-
ambo, dean of Makerere Medical School, where the program will be lo-
cated, said. A U.N.- and UNAIDS-operated pilot program in Uganda and
three other countries "has provided strong evidence" that medical
systems in developing nations can administer antiretrovirals, which
require frequent patient blood testing and medication monitoring.
Uganda was selected as the training center site because of the gov-
ernment's success in reducing the HIV infection rate from 30% in the
early 1990s to less than 10% today (Washington Post, 6/12).

*Ivory Coast's HIV-Positive Patients Still Unable to Afford AIDS
Drugs, Health Care Infrastructure Needed

While regional AIDS experts consider the Ivory Coast West Af-
rica's"most prosperous" country, with "some medical infrastructure
and government interest" in fighting the AIDS epidemic, most HIV-
positive citizens in the country are unable to afford anti-AIDS drugs
even at sharply discounted prices, the Washington Post reports. Com-
pared to the AIDS "nightmare" facing surrounding countries, the Ivory
Coast "has done well," Abdoulie Janneh, assistant administrator and
director of the U.N. Development Program in Africa, said. Ivory Coast
President Laurent Gbagbo has taken significant steps toward address-
ing the epidemic, speaking out on the issue that is typically consid-
ered "taboo," elevating the National Fight Against AIDS director to a
cabinet-level position and budgeting $17 million this year for anti-
AIDS efforts. In addition, the country last year accepted offers from
pharmaceutical companies to provide AIDS drugs at 90% discounts. But
the steep price cuts "will have a limited effect until a host of
other issues are dealt with," the Post reports, citing the "grinding
poverty that makes almost any charge unaffordable" and the problems
associated with "creating a health care infrastructure to deliver the
drugs and monitor their use and educating people about AIDS." Na-
tional Fight Against AIDS Minister Kassim Sidibe said, "Even if the
drugs were free, it would not solve our problems. Health care access
is a serious problem. Cheap drugs are good, free drugs are bet-
ter, but they are only a piece of the puzzle." And patients who are
able to partially afford the drugs may take them intermittently due
to "financial pressures" -- halting the regimen when their symptoms
improve, and resuming the regimen only when they feel "severely ill"
again. Such practices help create drug-resistant HIV, the Post re-
ports. Terence Chorba, director of the CDC office in the Ivory Coast,
noted, "We need to be judicious, and to be judicious we have to moni-
tor patients, monitor labs and that infrastructure doesn't exist. An-
tiretrovirals are a major piece, but a lot of other major pieces also
have to be addressed" (Farah, Washington Post, 6/12).

The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for,
a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, by National
Journal Group Inc. c 2001 by National Journal Group Inc. and Kaiser
Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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