AIDS Group Forms Company to Provide Cheap Drugs

| August 22, 2003

With 600 South Africans dying daily of AIDS-related diseases, a group of researchers and activists -- attacking government's 'lack of political will' -- have formed a company to sell cheap anti-retroviral drugs. The Generic Anti-retroviral Procurement Project (GARPP) was launched after a mass protest sponsored by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). The group charges that the South African government officials have been 'foot dragging' on implementing a national anti-retroviral treatment plan.

The launching of the company, which will sell the pills at roughly $40 a month (cheaper than what is now on the market), comes at a critical time for the country. There are an estimated 5 million people living with HIV/AIDS. Roughly 600,000 are ready to start treatment with anti-retrovirals, but only about 1,500 in the state sector and 20,000 in the private sector are receiving treatment.

The protesters carried signs that said, 'two pills a day saves lives.' Peter Piot, UNAIDS executive director, agrees with that analysis by saying that prevention and treatment are both essential aspects of the world response to AIDS. 'Throughout the world, the debate is not on whether to offer anti-retroviral treatment in the public sector, but how to do it given the numerous real constraints,' he said. 'But for heaven's sake, let us not wait to act until we have the perfect solution, because the era of the perfect solution is still far away.'
-- Joel Stonington

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