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Monday, December 5, 2016
US AIDS policy hypocritical and inhumane, says aid agency
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¬†CAFOD has condemned the United States for offering loans to buy HIV/AIDS drugs instead of aid to African nations. The Export-Import Bank has announced that it will lend one billion dollars per year to African countries so long as they buy expensive American-made anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs and essential medicines to treat AIDS-related illnesses. Spokeswoman Ann Smith explains: "The loans would be at commercial rates. They would pile up on top of existing debts. It makes no sense to burden African countries with more loans in a bid to tackle HIV/AIDS, when existing debts are undermining their ability to prevent and treat the virus." The loans will be conditional on African states buying drugs from US pharmaceutical companies at prices they cannot afford. Ann Smith says the Export-Import Bank's initiative will have the effect of blocking countries from pursuing policies to make cheaper generic drugs available through compulsory licensing to African companies and importing cheaper drugs from other countries. She said: "The United States may pretend it is the cavalry, riding to the rescue. However it is riding a Trojan Horse. Commercial interests are being clothed in humanitarian posturing. The United States has Africa over a barrel. Either African countries can watch their 25 million people infected with HIV die, or they can agree to the US terms to buy overpriced drugs that will have a limited impact and increase their own debt burden." CAFOD has repeatedly called for donor countries to make basic medicines freely available in Africa. They are relatively cheap and will have a positive and immediate impact on the pandemic. Meanwhile ARV therapy costs in Britain are £8,000 per person per year for the tablets only. ARV also requires sophisticated health support systems involving laboratories and monitoring. Some countries in Africa spend under three pounds per capita per year on health care and their health services are in collapse. Even if the ARV drugs were free, there are not adequate health services available in most countries of sub-Saharan Africa that could care for individuals taking such drugs. The United States has made commitments at recent G8 summits to reduce debt owed by poorer nations and to cut HIV infection by 25 per cent in the next decade. Ann Smith says the US Export-Import Bank's plan makes a mockery of all these promises. She says it exposes the United States to charges of gross hypocrisy, injustice and venality. Ann Smith says this contradicts the message coming out of the Thirteenth International AIDS Conference in Durban. Peter Piot, general secretary of UNAIDS, announced that the most important factor in increasing drug access is competition between generic and patented drugs. He also cited heavy debt burdens as a crucial impediment to effective action against the escalating African and Asian AIDS epidemics.
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