On a positive note, the Fund has finally given guidance to grantees over the issue of generic medications. Bucking intense pressure from the pharma lobby, grantees now have a green light to seek drugs at "the lowest price possible," whether generic or branded.
"I'm no optimist about the virus. But I simply don't believe, on the basis of personal observation, that we have to face Armageddon. In fact it enrages me the way in which we pile despair upon catastrophe, over and over again, rendering everyone paralyzed. You don't have to be some pathetic bleeding heart to see the potential strength in these societies at the grass roots, and know that if we could galvanize the governments, indigenous and external, and equip civil society, and address capacity and infrastructure with external resources, then we could defeat this pandemic. It is not beyond our competence.
"I met not long ago with a thousand high school students in Addis Ababa, for a question and answer session that lasted an entire afternoon, and the intelligence and understanding and sophistication of those kids gives nothing but hope; I've met with the WFP truck drivers in Nazareth, south of Addis, as they tell their stories of the training they receive, and how they now always carry condoms on their routes; I've met at length with his Holiness, the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox church as we discussed how the UN family could set in process training for his 350 thousand priests so that they, in turn, could address their parishioners; I've sat over coffee with village women miles and miles from the Ethiopian capital, while neighbors gather to talk about how the virus is transmitted and how to protect themselves. They laugh self-consciously in the presence of a stranger, but they don't mince words.
"I've attended the two-day sensitivity sessions in Abuja, Nigeria, for the establishment of mother-to-child-transmission clinics -- a tremendously impressive undertaking; I've sat with the doctors and nurses in a leading hospital in Benue state as they decide how they'll choose those who should receive antiretroviral treatment when it begins, and how to handle the counseling; I've met with groups of People Living with Aids out in the Eastern region, near Onitsha, as the mothers talk about the kids they'll leave behind, and then make their eloquent, moving, unanswerable plea for treatment."
Yet activists say this plan falls short on a number of counts. First, unless Coke presses holdout independent bottlers to join the plan, only a portion of Coke's workers will be covered. Second, the current plan will exclude children of Coke's workers. Finally, the plan intends to require a 10 percent co-payment to receive drugs. Activists fear that this amount -- easily affordable by the company -- may pose an insurmountable barrier for many low-pay workers.
Back to the GMHC Treatment Issues October 2002 contents page.