Minister says anti-retrovirals will be available soon

Maputo- Mozambique (PANA) -- Mozambican Health Minister Francisco Songane Friday said that generic anti-retroviral drugs will be available later this year in units of the Mozambican national health service.
The drugs are used to prolong the lives of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes the lethal disease AIDS.
Speaking to reporters at the end of a weeklong meeting of his ministry's Co-ordinating Council, Songane said preparations are under way to set up the operational procedures necessary for the introduction of anti-retroviral treatment.
He stressed that because there are Mozambicans already acquiring anti-retroviral drugs from abroad, "it is imperative that we introduce anti-retrovirals this year.
I am sure it will be possible.
" He warned that the treatment regime must be carefully controlled in order to avoid viral resistance to the drugs.
Songane also stressed that the state is in no position to pay for these drugs: the patients will have to support the costs out of their own pockets - which means that the treatment will be out of the reach of the vast majority of HIV-positive Mozambicans.
The Health Ministry intends to import the drugs from countries such as India or Brazil which produce the much cheaper, generic equivalents of the brand-name drugs produced by the multinational pharmaceutical companies.
Whereas a year's anti-retroviral treatment for one person might cost 12,000 US dollars if branded drugs are used, the cost comes down to about 600 dollars for those using the generic equivalent.
Songane said Ministry officials have already made two visits to Brazil, and a visit to India is planned within the next two months.
In Brazil, the Mozambican team discussed training for the staff who will administer anti-retrovirals and other practical issues.
Songane said assistance for anti-retroviral treatment had also been promised by Italy, which has offered to train clinical staff and provide laboratory equipment.
Songane noted that co-operation among the countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) could push the cost of anti-retroviral drugs down further.
A bloc purchase of the drugs by SADC members could result in a cost of 300 dollars per patient per year, he said.
"Even so, this cost is not accessible to the majority of the Mozambican population," he added.

02 june 2001 16:01:00




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