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Bush Plan for Africa
Mar 19, 2003

I'm not sure in which forum to post this question, but this seems to be the one that fits best.

It seems to me that all of the hoopla regarding U.S. grants to finance AIDS drugs for African countries announced by President Bush is missing some major points. Since existing drugs are not a cure, how are ongoing lifetime medication costs going to continued to be funded for decades? And, without lifetime medication funding and/or without the necessary education for native Africans (which would be very difficult), achieving effective regimen adherence and complete virus surpression would be very difficult. When drugs begin to fail, a whole new generation or drug resistant virus will be unleashed on the continent and the world. After twenty years without a cure I hate to be too cynical, but to me this plan smells more like a plan to promote the interests of US pharmeutical companies than a plan to truly aleviate the world of the AIDS pandemic.

I think that the AIDS medical community should weigh in on this plan. Could one of you please comment? Thank you.

Response from Dr. Young

Thanks for your interest in AIDS public policy-- more of us need to place this on our "to do" list.

I actually welcome the response of the Bush policy in general-- that is to say that it is a very nice change to see our executive branch actually recognizing the magnitude of the problem and actually making a verbal commitment to do more.

The devil is in the details-- details that clearly need to be determined before a centila is given to anyone. I fear that this will get bogged down in committee and never actually get decided-- hence, no money contributed. A clever political move, to give lip service to a contribution, but to have politics ultimately make it a lame duck issue that dies on the table.

The key thing, particularly in light of the situation in the Middle East, is for all persons interested to continue to pressure your congressional delegation that they should make this an issue.

Whether monies go to medications, education or prevention seems like a secondary issue, in a setting where far too little is done and far too little attention is given to the crisis at hand. Drugs may not be a cure, but drugs given in the right setting can be life saving (as they have been in the US and Western Europe) and can actually save a generation of infants. Let me remind you that the issue with drug resistance has certainly not prevented the wide-spread use of antiretroviral medications in the developed world, nor has the issue of drug resistance prevented the manifold changes in the quality and quantity of life for persons in the developed world. I don't think, therefore, that the prospects of medication distribution to the developing world is a pharmaceutical conspiracy (certainly not a US-one, since most of the HIV pharmaceutical companies are actually Europe-based or multinational), but rather a genuine attempt to save lives.

Either way, write to your congresspersons or senator, particularly if the later sits on the Senate Appropriation Committee. -BY

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