Senegal's President Sacks Head of Aid Group for Allegedly Trafficking Cheap AIDS Drugs
October 16, 2002
Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade announced the dismissal of Latif Gueye, a Senegalese citizen and head of the humanitarian organization Africa Helps Africa, on national television, accusing him of committing "extremely serious errors" for his alleged role in trafficking AIDS drugs that were meant for Africa but were sold in Europe. "It is unfortunate that medicine meant for African AIDS patients is diverted and sold at higher prices in Europe," Wade said Monday night.Adapted from:
Wade himself founded AHA, an intergovernmental group with 51 member countries, in 1996. A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Gueye was responsible for finding inexpensive AIDS drugs for Senegalese HIV patients. The official alleged that Gueye sold the AIDS drugs in Europe, with some found in the Netherlands and Germany. Gueye denied any involvement in trafficking. At a news conference, he said AFA had a surplus of antiretroviral drugs and had tried to exchange them for other medicine and equipment. Gueye added that Senegalese police have questioned him, although he claimed they should not have jurisdiction over the matter.
Earlier this month, Dutch health authorities scrambled to recover illegally imported AIDS medication. Around 36,000 boxes of Combivir and Epivir, intended for sale at sharply discounted prices in Africa, ended up on pharmacy shelves in the Netherlands and Germany, said Raymond Salet, a spokesperson for the Netherlands' General Health Inspection Service. Several pharmaceutical companies began selling low-price HIV drugs in AIDS-ravaged Africa after criticism that they were making financial windfalls at the expense of the poor. A box of 60 Combivir that costs around EUR90 (US $88) in Africa can be sold in Europe for EUR400 (US $392).
In London, a GlaxoSmithKline spokesperson said on condition of anonymity that the company is cooperating with a European-based inquiry, "mainly the Dutch authorities because they took the lead," into Africa-bound antiretrovirals that were redirected to Europe. Senegal has managed to avoid the worst of the AIDS epidemic gripping Africa, with an HIV rate of less than 2 percent. Health officials believe it has been shielded in part by widely held cultural and religious values that limit sex to marriage.
10.15.02; Nafi Diouf
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.