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Too Bad For Africa, Dr. Young
Jan 18, 2002

Dr. Young: Your answer to HIV/AIDS sadly does not include Africa!! Perhaps one day profits will become secondary to saving lives. Thank you for your expert advice provided to HIV?AIDS people.

Response from Dr. Young

Agreed, comments about quality and quantity of life saddly don't apply to the many HIV-infected persons in the developing world, beyond the reach of adequate care. Unless we (globally) act soon, millions-- more than those lost in the Holocaust, will die.

I will take issue with your position that this is all related to profits, though. Consider the case of South Africa, where the single greatest number of persons with HIV live. Here we have a medical tragedy, generated, not by the inavailability of medications (hundreds of millions of USD of medications have been donated, and sit unused), but for lack of political will, political ineptitude (President Mbeki), and lack of medical infrastructure. Profit has little to do with this situation.

Nevertheless, in our capitalistic economy, without profit movitation, I doubt that we would now have the many medications for the effective treatment of HIV in the developed world. Remember that the average cost of drug discovery for the few compounds that do make it to market (and treatment) is around $500 million (USD). This is before one begins to talk about fair return on a half-billion dollar investment. I would table that we need to find a way to balance a way to financially incentivise pharmaceutical corporations with the need to distribute medications to all that need them.

Pharmaceutical cost (and profit) is only one part of a extremely complex set of issues that affect the developing world.. access to care, cultural issues and barriers, infrastructure remain difficult in many areas. Lest I forget, we must not forget the critical role that preventive strategies will play in HIV care. All of these issues have little to do with antiretroviral therapy (or the pharmaceuticals to treat disease), but with funding mechanisms for human care.

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