UNAIDS chief urges renewed focus on HIV cure

Sirte- Libya (PANA) -- Researchers and policy makers must refocus their attention to finding a cure for HIV/AIDS to safeguard the future of mothers and the unbor n children, 300,000 of whom are infected in Africa every year, a top UN official s aid here Thursday.
UN Joint Programme for HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Executive Director Michael Sidibe said the debate on finding a vaccine and a cure for the pandemic could help save more than 22 million affected by the disease in Africa and cut the newborn infections rapidly.
“We need to bring back the debate on cure and vaccine for HIV/AIDS and urge the whole world to invest in a cure,” the UNAIDS chief told PANA in an exclusive int e rview on the sidelines of the African Union Summit in Sirte, central Libya.
The UNAIDS chief says the number of newborn children getting infected every year continues to increase, further increasing the burden of treatment.
However, Sidibe says the fight against HIV/AIDS is not not only a challenge to A frica’s public health infrastructure, but also portends great benefits of techno l ogy transfer, which could enable Africa to become self sufficient in the making o f its own drugs.
“We need to start the transfer of knowledge to Africa.
With continental vision, we could come up with excellent ideas for drug production,” said Sidibe, a veter a n public health expert, who has spent more than 20 years working in the UN syste m .
There is fear that African countries, in particular, South Africa, would be over burdened by the pandemic unless efforts are made to cut the mother-to-child HIV/ A IDS transmission.
The increased cases of new-born infections are expected to prolong the financial burden that African countries face in the future as they strive to keep the inf e cted populations alive, using the life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).
“Africans will need these medicines for a longtime.
They need others as well, fo r malaria, tuberculosis and other conditions, yet most of these drugs are not pr o duced in Africa for the lack of stringent quality standards and manufacturing ca p acity,” Sidibe noted.
Africa could benefit from a new source of pharmaceutical revolution if the deman d for HIV/AIDS drugs is sustained with increased drug production, the UN officia l said.
The AIDS drugs are expensive, and they do not work for ever.
The first-line trea tment costs US$ 92 for every patient every year, which is beyond the reach of mo s t Africans, living well below US$ 2 a day.
More than 80 per cent of the four million people on treatment for HIV/AIDS are i n Africa, yet the continent is unable to manufacture its own drugs, the UN offic i al regretted.
There are also other related public health complications, which if not properly executed, could also worsen the risk of the pandemic.
In some cases, patients risk developing resistance to the drugs that are used in the management of the disease.
Sidibe said plans should be developed to give guidelines on when patients should be placed on drugs.

02 july 2009 19:07:00

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