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AFRO-NETS> African scientists need an HIV/AIDS research fund

African scientists need an HIV/AIDS research fund


Bush and Mbeki have something in common: when a political issue isn't 
fitting with their agenda, they ask questions to scientists.

Last week Bush felt that scientists must provide more evidences on 
climate changes. Last year Mbeki questioned the link between HIV and 

Let us hope that Bush will continue to follow the example set by 
Mbeki who after questioning, admitted that his questions may have 
caused more confusion, and then apparently stopped questioning and 
started talking about the issue in a public address in South Africa; 

Yet Bush and Mbeki's doubts are raising another question regarding 
the cost of research.

If we strictly follow the reasoning of Western states, research on 
HIV/AIDS is expensive, and they consider it necessary to find solu-
tions to preserve the interests of the large pharmaceutical corpora-
tions who enjoy patent rights on medicines;
see WTO discussion on essential medicines:

So if you follow this reasoning, it means that the next step for con-
vincing Bush would be to patent global warming, to negotiate patent 
rights for desertification, to privatise endangered species, etc.

But could the fight against global climate changes ever become a 
source of revenues for Western countries? Of course not! This is an 
issue requiring the will of people world-wide to push it and to re-
quest from the persons they elect to tackle it.

So why is AIDS so different than climate changes? AIDS has the poten-
tial of generating revenues, thus the patents chemists issue on medi-

Saying that an HIV/AIDS research costs money is correct.

But saying that because this research costs money, we must then en-
sure that patent rights are granted to pharmaceutical corporations, 
isn't correct.

All research cost money.

If we start to only research things that bring patent rights to cor-
porations, we must be very clear about the consequences.

Research on HIV/AIDS must be independent from pharmaceutical corpora-
tions, in order to ensure unbiased research.

In a previous post, I have reproduced an interesting discussion about 
"pulsed therapies":
(see It will 
show you that there are certain research even on HIV/AIDS that are 
conflicting with the interests of pharmaceutical corporations.

One of the basis of democracies is to separate powers: executive, 
legislative and judicial.

Today we need to take a difficult decision regarding research. Should 
research be recognised as a power: the power to observe, to criti-
cise, to independently debate, to write research proposals, to debate 
research spending, to advocate research funds, to allocate them, to 
perform studies, to publish?

Research has been benefiting from the peer review system. There are 
flaws to it, as it is a human process with shortcomings. But all in 
all, science, research and peer review have astonished the world in 
what they can achieve.

Peer review requires a diversity of opinions. Science isn't anonymous.
It has faces and names; persons who have emotions and fears regarding 
the outcome of their research (see "Des hommes probables - de la 
procréation aléatoire à la reproduction normative" by Jacques Testart,
Ed. Seuil, 1999, ISBN 2-02-036749-1).

Research isn't an institute or a corporation speaking with a cold 
public relation tone, it is a group of authors, sometimes from vari-
ous institutions and countries, writing together.

Unlike corporations, scientists do not need a public image to perform 
well; they are not motivated by profit or greed, but by the sense of 
their mission. Scientists aren't seeking to be understood by the pub-
lic, but instead to convince their peers or whoever is or will be 
ready to read them (today or even in future times).

The European Union pushes the creation of carefully managed expertise 
research centres. It will quench peer review, it will demotivate re-
search scientists.

Research on HIV/AIDS must become an opportunity for research scien-
tists in Africa and for scientific PLWAs in Africa, to develop re-
search skills and to develop research facilities in Africa.

For that to open, African universities must have access to a research 
fund (see also "African Governments Lagging Behind in Scientific De-
velopment" ).

Let us not further polarised the world by centralising research ex-
pertise at a few spots in Western countries enjoying closed relations 
with Western pharmaceutical corporations.

If the global HIV/AIDS fund set-up by Kofi Annan will sponsor re-
search, I do believe it should be made EXCLUSIVELY accessible to sci-
entists in AFRICA or other POOR COUNTRIES affected by HIV/AIDS.

This could be coined "Equal Opportunity Research". I invite you to 
visit a corresponding survey. 100% of the 33 persons who answered fa-
vour that research performed on blood tissues collected in Botswana 
are undertaken at facilities of the University of Botswana, instead 
of at an overseas institute (partly sponsored by Western pharmaceuti-
cal corporations):

This page was visited among others by: UNDP (, US 
Dept. of Justice (, Voice of America 
(, Harvard AIDS Institute 
(, Siemens (, GTZ 
(, World Bank ( These 
visits may be a sign that there is an increasing awareness among or-
ganisations to include African universities into a global research 
effort on HIV/AIDS.

During the genotyping of human, several persons campaigned so that it 
remains for everyone on Earth. What about genotyping a human disease, 
such as a virus? Whom should the genotyping of an HIV sub-type 1C be-
long to?

The Yale paper mentioned by Cecilia to solve the conflict between 
pharmaceutical corporations and poor countries does remind us of the 
Berlin Wall: split the world into two (see "Yale Economist Introduces 
Proposal to Settle Debate Between Pharmaceutical Companies and Devel-
oping Nations": ).

To avoid that such economical priorities revive geopolitical solutions
(see "Géopolitique et Histoire" by Claude Raffestin, Ed. Histoire 
Payot, 1995, ISBN 2-228-88901-6), we need to find new concepts.

Questions such as HIV/AIDS can not be solved with an army or with a 
map of the world. Using this dangerous geopolitics as a tool to solve 
an health issue is pass?. Because a world with a wall needs soldiers 
to make sure no one crosses that wall. Soldiers aren't health work-
ers. So geopolitics won't help. And what would be the basis of the 
wall? A knowledge!

I suggest that we push a new concept of "epistemopolitics" instead of 

Just as people viewed the world with the eyes of pioneers, science 
and research has been long viewed as a world of scientific pioneers.

I hope I won't shock you too much by saying that this pioneer vision 
is also passé. Today you are not *exploring* knowledge, but you are 
trying to find your orientation within an overload of related issues. 
Sometimes the answer to a problem may be found in another field of 
interest dealing with a similar problem. Medical doctors are trained 
to do just that: dia-gnostics (dia = through, gnostics = knowledge). 
But imagine that a knowledge-soldier would sit in their brain saying: 
"stop here! your paper please? nope, that thought please forget about 
it, your patient is too poor, return to your original thought and try 
recalling something cheaper!".

What need to be done is to define a new way to look at the "forest of 
techniques and knowledge". In analogy to a forest, we need some roads 
in order to find an orientation between related techniques. Whatever 
is essential to the world should be public "knowledge roads" and 
maintained as such. The small side paths could be left to private 
patents, whenever they are not essential to everyone.

This "epistemopolitics" is my reading of the historical invention of 
the alternative current by Nikola Tesla, whose patents were later ig-
nored by corporations. We have the choice to either introduce a gen-
eral "patent fair use", or to start regulating the way patents are 
issued, not in terms of which domain of knowledge may or may not be 
patented, but in terms of whether they are essential to the world or 

Christian Labadie, M.S.

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