BOSTON, Nov 14 (Reuters) - The industrialized world and
particularly Group of Seven nations should do more to address
the double scourge of AIDS and heavy foreign debt crippling
southern Africa, Botswana President Festus Mogae said on
Mogae said he was disappointed by the lack of response and
accused the U.S. government of making "sympathetic noises" but
doing little while African nations reeled on the edge of
economic and demographic implosion.
Some 24 million people in Africa have HIV, the virus that
causes AIDS, and millions have died. Infection levels are far
higher there than the rest of the world. In Botswana, 36
percent of the adult population is HIV-positive, the highest
rate in the world.
The epidemic has crushed the country, leaving it little hope of
a speedy recovery. Mogae said life expectancy had fallen by at
least 20 years to 47 years and that as many as half the natural
deaths occurring in Botswana are HIV related.
Advanced medicines that have significantly prolonged the
survival of U.S. and European AIDS sufferers are so expensive
that most Africans have no hope of ever getting access to them,
Mogae told a news conference at the end of an AIDS conference
sponsored by the Harvard AIDS Institute.
Mogae said the inadequate response was particularly frustrating
when looked at in context of the West's growing wealth.
"Your wealth in recent years increased by trillions and
therefore what we owe is peanuts," Mogae told Reuters after a
news conference, referring to Africa's debt.
"It will not affect anybody, not the balance sheets of banks or
anybody. It's just a matter of principle. You are insisting on
repayment as a matter of principle, but it has no financial
consequences for anybody else except the debtor. For him it's a
lot of money," he said.
There has been some improvement recently, Mogae said, though
offers of loans and drug discounts were still insufficient.
"Pharmaceutical companies have come forward and offered us
discounts. Some of these discounts are very generous but (the
drugs) are still more than our faint means can allow us to
afford and therefore we are still not able to take full
advantage of the offer,' Mogae said.
Five major drug companies are negotiating discounts with
African countries for some of the leading antiretroviral
medications. In October, Glaxo Wellcome (quote from Yahoo! UK &
Ireland: GLXO.L) reached a deal with Senegal to sell its
leading anti AIDS drugs there for about $2 a day.
But in a region where much of the population lives on less than
a dollar a day, even that price looks high, Mogae said.
The United Nations estimates that it will cost at least $3
billion a year to fight the epidemic in Africa, a figure that
does not include the cost of anti-AIDS drugs.
"If you are dealing with these orders of magnitude, the offers
by the pharmaceutical companies may in themselves be generous
but still not affordable and that is why I am saying ... they
should do more," Mogae said.
Mogae said African countries were prepared to play a role in
the financing of HIV treatments, but that they could not do it
"We are saying the rest of the world, including and especially
the United States and the rest of the G7, at the governmental
level should do something to make it possible for us to access
these treatments that are currently available," Mogae said.
Mogae also urged drug companies to allow other countries to
make cheaper, generic versions of their drugs.