Africa must make own Aids drugs

2009-04-22 22:00

Addis Ababa - Africa must manufacture its own generic drugs if it is to fight HIV/Aids and ensure the financial crisis does not stop patients from getting treatment, the new head of the UN's Aids agency said on Wednesday.

"We should facilitate a discussion around how we can build a business case for producing generic drugs in Africa so that it can increase coverage but can, at the same time, be a profitable business," Executive Director of UNAids, Michel Sidibé, said.

South Africa is the only African country that makes its own HIV/Aids drugs.

"It's important politically, it's important economically, it's important for the integration of Africa in the global market," Sidibé told reporters during a trip to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

He said local production needs to happen quickly as the majority of infected Africans have no access to treatment.

The 57-year-old Malian is the first African to hold the post of UN Aids chief.

Sidibé said the priority of his term would be ensuring universal access to medical treatment for all those infected with the disease worldwide. But he expressed concern that the global financial crisis might hamper his efforts.

"Governments need to start anticipating minimum spending on social services so we don't have a breakdown in our respective systems," he said. "My worry about the crisis is that if we are not careful we could face a breakdown in our caring society."

An estimated 33 million people globally are infected with the HIV virus that causes Aids and most of them live in Africa and other developing countries.