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  Africa`s Hope: Save AIDS Drugs Bill
  30 มกราคม 2554

Date: 30 January 2011



When Bongani Masalaza was diagnosed with the AIDS virus, he braced for the worst. "You would surely die," recalls the resident of Cape Town, South Africa. He could barely eat, couldn`t wash himself and weighed just 86 pounds.

But he`s a fighter. He lived with the virus for years, South Africa`s Health-e news service reports. Still, tuberculosis dragged him down, twice, until he was put on an antiretroviral treatment program. He credits the AIDS drugs with saving his life. Today he`s a scrawny but thriving 136 pounds, with a good blood count.

"I think I would be dead by now, had I not started treatment."

That`s just one person`s story. But it is a tale of survival that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Parliament should ponder on Monday, when MPs reconvene. In one of their first bits of business they must decide whether to keep Bill C-393 alive. That`s the proposed law to make it easier for generic drug firms to get approval to make cheap copies of brand-name drugs for poor countries. It`s a worthy cause.

The war on AIDS is faltering, the World Health Organization warns. Some 15 million people need drugs. But only 5 million get them. Canada can help. But keeping C-393 alive requires unanimous consent. The Conservatives haven`t yet agreed. All opposition parties have. If the bill dies, the Tories may have to bear the blame.

Even if C-393 lives, another battle looms. Last fall a Commons committee narrowly, and wrongly, voted to gut it of an essential provision, the so-called "one-licence solution." Parliament must decide at a later stage whether to reverse that move. It should.

The original bill would do away with obtuse Canadian rules that make it hard for generic firms to supply drugs. Currently they must get separate licences for each sale, country by country and order by order, and for limited periods of time only. Designed to protect brand-name firms, these rules have resulted in only Rwanda getting drugs in the past five years.

Bogus arguments have been floated that the AIDS crisis is well in hand, that China and India now supply all the generics that are needed, and that price isn`t a problem. The facts, as reported by the WHO, refute such claims.

Even today, 15 million people are in need. Canada vowed in 2005, with unanimous Commons assent, to ensure "universal access" for all. We should be worthy of our word, stand by C-393 and offer the help that so many require.


Keywords: Africa / AIDS / Drugs