Thursday, August 24, 2006

Our Zimbabwe dilemna

Three years ago whilst living in Francistown, Botswana I wasa regular visitor to Zimbabwe. Every other weekend my family and I would cross the border into Zims with groceries for our relatives. We did not cross the border exclusively to assist otehrs though; we crossed because we loved the warm welcome and happy atmosphere of Bulawayo. On our recent trip we didn't enter Zim. We received mixed advice about the wisdom of doing so. With the benefit of hindsight I think we should have have gone - to visit family but also to see for ourselves how things have changed. It was only the fear of harrassment from the police that detered me. I have always coped with it previously but this time I just felt I didn't have the patience to cope. The stories of people being strip searched at the border as official searched for illicit currency was off-putting as was stories of seven roadblocks between the Plumtree border post and Bulawayo. Next time I must bite the bullet though and cross the border...

Monday, August 21, 2006

WHO calls for more ARV's for children

THE majority of children in sub-Saharan Africa are not benefiting from efforts to expand antiretroviral treatment for AIDS, WHO has said. In a featured talk at the just ended International AIDS conference in Toronto, World Health Organisation (WHO) director of AIDS programmes Dr Kevin De Cock said 800,000 of the 2.3 million children infected with HIV worldwide needed antiretroviral drugs to stay alive. His comments followed an extensive review of progress in efforts to step up antiretroviral treatment. “Of the 800,000, only 60,000 to 100,000 are receiving therapy.

While the children account for 14 per cent of AIDS deaths, they make up only six per cent of recipients of antiretroviral drug therapy and many of these are orphans,” he said. “We must conclude that the scale-up has so far left children behind.”

Dr De Cock said while rich countries had virtually eliminated pediatric AIDS, less than 10 per cent of pregnant women with HIV in poor and middle-income countries were receiving the simple regimen of pills that could prevent the transmission of the virus to their newborns.

“An urgent priority is improving access to antiretroviral therapy for children, especially in sub-Saharan Africa” he said. Dr De Cock said women in developing countries were receiving therapy in proportion to the female infection rate but added that their access to follow-up care could still be inhibited. “Of the 38.6 million people with HIV, about 6.8 million in low and middle-income countries would be expected to die within two years without antiretroviral therapy. Of these, about 1.7 million are now receiving it, but for many it is coming too late to get the full benefit of the drugs,” said Dr De Cock. “The one million people now receiving therapy in Africa is 10 times the number who were being treated in December 2003 but the figure is two million fewer than the number the late Dr Lee Jong-wook had set as a goal when he became director general of WHO in 2003. The aim was to treat three million people by the end of 2005, in a program called ‘three by five’.”

Friday, August 11, 2006

HIV/AIDS Vaccine?

It will take a very long time to wipe out the horrible AIDS virus without developing a vaccine.

All the other measures on which we are spending so much time, financial and other resources will only mitigate the problem but will not be able to eradicate this virus. It is therefore pleasing that efforts are being made to develop a vaccine that may help conquer the AIDS virus. Given the wisdom and endeavour of humanity it must be actually possible to come up with an AIDS vaccine. But this has not been easy to achieve not necessarily because of limited scientific knowledge on the part of humanity but because of unbridled lust for money, for profits.

Those with the scientific and technical know-how, those who have spent gigantic sums of money developing what appears to be very profitable antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) may not be very keen to see them off the market so soon. They may still want to make more profits from their investments in ARVs. And moreover, it is these same corporations that somehow have the scientific and technological know-how needed to develop AIDS vaccines. And when it comes to matters like these, profits take precedence over human life, especially the lives of those poor human beings in Third World countries.