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AIDS Activists Welcome Cost Cuts for HIV Drugs in Africa, Though Effective Treatment Remains Out of Reach

HeadlineMar 16, 2001

AIDS activists and workers across Africa yesterday welcomed the sudden wave of cost cuts in HIV drugs for Africa but said that even at drug companies’ newly promised prices, at or below cost for some key drugs, effective treatment against AIDS will remain far out of reach for Africans hardest hit by it. Bristol Myers Squibb announced on Wednesday it will sell two AIDS medications below cost to countries in Africa. The announcement came on the heels of similar deals by leading pharmaceutical companies, including Merck & Co. But AIDS workers said that AIDS drugs have to be used in a cocktail, and some drugs are now cheaper, but some remain unaffordable. Furthermore, the limited number of drugs being offered at reduced cost would leave Africa’s health workers with a reduced packet of ammunition against AIDS, which risks development of more drug-resistant versions of the virus that could worsen Africa’s AIDS problem. However, AIDS activists pointed to another announcement by Bristol Myers as a true breakthrough: the company’s statement that it would waive its patent rights for one of its AIDS drugs in South Africa.

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