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World Health Organization: African Countries Negotiate with Thailand to Produce Generic HIV Drugs Locally

December 14, 2001

Two African countries are negotiating with Thailand's government to learn how to produce cheap, generic HIV drugs on the continent hardest-hit by AIDS, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. Zimbabwe and Ghana are finalizing deals under which Thailand would provide the technical expertise needed to set up factories to produce the drugs in Africa, WHO representative Mariane Ngoulla said late Wednesday.

Ngoulla, who heads a research unit on traditional medicine at WHO's Africa headquarters in Zimbabwe, was speaking at the 12th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Africa, which ended in Ouagadougou on Thursday. Thailand's state-run Government Pharmaceutical Organization announced in October it would start manufacturing locally produced HIV drugs by the year's end that would cut the cost of treatment in half. This year 10 African countries signed agreements with major pharmaceutical companies to receive the drugs at a fraction of their cost in Western nations, WHO says. But even at prices reduced by as much as 90 percent, few Africans can afford the drugs. WHO wants to see all countries in Africa gain access to low-cost HIV drugs produced on the continent.

Nearly 5,000 people -- including scientists, politicians, aid workers and traditional healers from 61 countries -- attended the five-day conference. Also present were representatives from some of the world's major pharmaceutical companies. As the conference ended Friday, participants called on donor countries to step up vital contributions of money needed to help researchers and health workers fight the disease. AIDS claims the lives of about 2.3 million Africans every year, UNAIDS said. The conference, which takes place every other year, will be held next in Nairobi, Kenya in 2003.

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Excerpted from:
Associated Press
12.13.01; Brahima Ouedraogo

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