for National Geographic News
Hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by AIDS and malaria will be averted with better treatment programs, former U.S. President Bill Clinton said yesterday in announcements in two West African nations.
Speaking in Senegal and Liberia, Clinton announced initiatives he said could immediately reduce AIDS-related infant mortality and, separately, extend affordable malaria treatment. The two diseases cause millions of deaths every year, especially in Africa.
Speaking in Monrovia to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, members of her cabinet, and the country's legislature, Clinton formally announced that his humanitarian foundation had helped negotiate a 30 percent reduction in the price of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT), a malaria treatment.
Malaria is the leading cause of death for African children. The mosquito-borne disease particularly plagues Liberia, where it causes more than half of all deaths in the country.
Under the new agreement, manufacturers of ACT have agreed to lower the price in return for the stabilization of demand.
Clinton explained that if manufacturers can be certain of a larger market, they can afford to reduce their margins and charge less for ACT.
"That means you will be able to provide the medication to more of your people with the money you've got," Clinton told the assembled representatives of Liberia's government.
Clinton also said his foundation was investigating whether ACT could be made even cheaper if Liberia successfully cultivates a plant used in ACT drugs.
Saving HIV-Positive Infants
In the second announcement, made in the Senegalese capital of Dakar, Clinton was joined by representatives of the government of France, the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNITAID, the funding mechanism set up in 2006 by France and other countries to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
If infants diagnosed with HIV—the virus that causes AIDS—are treated immediately after the disease has been identified, their prospects for survival quadruples, the group told a meeting of health care professionals and the media, citing South African research.
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