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AFRO-NETS> Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Tue, 19 Jun 2001



Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Tue, 19 Jun 2001
-----------------------------------------------

* Libyan Prosecutor Demands Death Penalty for Bulgarian Medical Work-
  ers Accused of Infecting Children with HIV
* DaimlerChrysler to Begin AIDS Treatment Program for South African
  HIV-Positive Workers, Dependents
* Infrastructure to Administer Antiretrovirals Lacking in Ivory Coast


--
Libyan Prosecutor Demands Death Penalty for Bulgarian Medical Workers
Accused of Infecting Children with HIV

A Libyan prosecutor has "demanded" the death penalty for six Bulgari-
ans and one Palestinian doctor accused of deliberately infecting 393 
Libyan children with HIV, according to reports from Bulgaria's Darik 
radio. "The prosecutor read the indictment, which said the infection 
was part of a conspiracy of foreign intelligence forces aimed at un-
dermining the security of Libya and its role in the Arab world," the 
state radio reported, adding that the prosecutor "demanded death for 
the six Bulgarian medics and the Palestinian." The health care work-
ers, who have been detained in Tripoli since February of 1999, plead 
not guilty, and their lawyer, Vladimir Sheitanov, asked for their ac-
quittal, saying the charges were "groundless" (Reuters, 6/16). Oth-
mane al-Bizanthi, another attorney for the defendants, said the in-
fections were the result of "poor hygiene in the [Benghazi chil-
dren's] hospital, where syringes are used over and over again by the 
Libyan staff" (Associated Press, 6/18). Sheitanov added that the con-
fessions given by several of the Bulgarians were "not legitimate 
proof" because they were "extorted by use of torture." Two of the 
nurses told the court at a June 2 hearing that they had been tortured 
while in custody. Bulgarian officials have "voiced concern" about the 
fairness of the proceedings. The court denied Sheitanov's request to 
allow expert medical testimony and the government has denied the ac-
cusations of torture and bias (Reuters, 6/16). Bulgarian President 
Petur Stoyanov said he "keep[s] thinking that there are grounds and 
possibilities for the gravest charges against the Bulgarian citizens 
to be dismissed" (BTA/BBC Monitoring. The court is expected to an-
nounce a verdict on Sept. 22 (Associated Press, 6/18).


--
DaimlerChrysler to Begin AIDS Treatment Program for South African 
HIV-Positive Workers, Dependents

DaimlerChrysler's South African subsidiary has established a health 
plan to provide free antiretroviral drugs to its employees and their 
families, in what may be the nation's "most far-reaching corporate 
program" to date, the Wall Street Journal reports. One of the largest 
companies to offer anti-HIV drugs to its employees in sub-Saharan Af-
rica, DaimlerChrysler has crafted a plan that includes an annual 
$3,750 individual insurance benefit to cover the costs of HIV drugs 
and drug monitoring for its 4,445 workers and their 18,555 dependents 
in three South African cities. In addition, the firm is budgeting 
$1.87 million per year to cover "any shortfall" in this insurance. 
The German government has lent its support to the program, providing 
some funding and technical assistance, and the local trade union has 
approved the plan. Christoph Kopke, chief executive of DaimlerChrys-
ler South Africa, said yesterday, "We believe this is something that 
can be done. We would like to be a role model." The only other "major 
international corporate player" to develop an employee AIDS treatment 
program is Ford Motor Co., but Ford's plan lacks the same level of 
funding or union participation as DaimlerChrysler's plan, according 
to the Journal. London-based mining giant Anglo American LPC has an-
nounced similar plans to aid its African workers, but has yet to im-
plement anything more than several pilot projects. AIDS activists 
have called local and corporate response to AIDS in Africa thus far 
"poor," but new projects such as DaimlerChrysler's may signal change. 
Gold Fields Ltd., South Africa's second-largest gold mining firm, has 
been "quietly implementing" an AIDS program that is set to be un-
veiled next month, and Volkswagen AG is also reported to be consider-
ing a plan for its HIV-positive workers. AIDS Law Project head Mark 
Heywood said, "Corporate South Africa is finally waking to the impact 
of AIDS and starting to realize that with drug prices coming down, 
it's more cost effective to manage HIV than to wait for workers to 
die or to dismiss them." Thirteen percent of South African workers 
are living with HIV, and that number is predicted to rise to 25% by 
the end of next year. Absenteeism, sickness payments and loss of 
skilled workers are anticipated to cost companies millions of dol-
lars. Clifford Panter, coordinator of the DaimlerChrysler project, 
said, "AIDS treatment is now as much company policy as a commitment 
to innovative car design and safety" (Block, Wall Street Journal, 
6/19).


--
Infrastructure to Administer Antiretrovirals Lacking in Ivory Coast

Although the Ivory Coast is considered "relatively well-off compared 
to its impoverished West African neighbors," the cost of HIV medica-
tions remains higher than most citizens' total annual incomes, the 
AP/Contra Costa Times reports. Even with manufacturers' price breaks 
for sub-Saharan Africa, HIV drug combinations cost between $85 and 
$110 per month, out of range of "some of the poorest patients," who 
pay approximately $14 per month for the medicines through a govern-
ment-subsidized program. However, only about 1,000 of the one million 
HIV-positive citizens receive treatment through the program. In addi-
tion, some patients are not adhering to antiretroviral drug regimens, 
creating the potential for the development of drug-resistant HIV 
strains. After following 11 HIV patients in 1998 and 1999, Auguste 
Blibolo, a medical researcher at Abidjan's Institute for Development 
Research, found that none of the patients stuck to their regimens 
without missing "at least a few days of treatment," and nine patients 
"repeatedly" went without pills for more than a week at a time. Al-
though patients in Western countries also occasionally miss doses, 
the situation in the Ivory Coast is "aggravated" by the lack of in-
formation about how HIV treatments work and a "severe shortage" of 
medical personnel and centers to administer the drugs. Although Abid-
jan has 18 medical centers, only four centers serve the remainder of 
the country, "forcing patients to travel far over bad roads." Accord-
ing to Nicole Boni, head of the UNAIDS initiative in the Ivory Coast, 
interruptions in drug supply, due to "political turbulence" and "gov-
ernment delays in releasing money" for new orders, has also contrib-
uted to patients' noncompliance to the drugs (Zavis, AP/Contra Costa 
Times, 6/19).

--
The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, 
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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