Mozambique to produce own ARVs

A Brazilian-funded factory for producing antiretroviral drugs, the first in Mozambique, will begin selling the key HIV medication by year's end, officials said Tuesday.

The project aims to help Mozambique, with one of the world's highest HIV infection rates, increase the availability and affordability of treatment.

"The idea is to reduce the health ministry's costs," said Francisco Luz, an official with the Brazilian embassy, which is providing funding for the factory and technical training for employees.

"The process is already in motion and began with the training of local technicians more than a year ago," said Brazilian ambassador Antonio Sousa e Silva, quoted in Tuesday's edition of the state-controlled newspaper Noticias.

"Specialists from Brazil are already travelling to Mozambique to facilitate training," Sousa e Silva said.

Model for developing world
Brazil's own approach to fighting HIV has been cited as a model for the developing world, and the country famously provides free antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to every HIV-positive citizen.

The program sparked controversy when it was announced in 1996 because of concerns about drug resistance and violation of pharmaceutical copyrights. But the World Bank estimates that the free medicine saved more than half a million lives.

Luz said plans to imitate the Brazilian program in Mozambique began in 2003 during a state visit by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

5th poorest country in the world
Mozambique has an HIV infection rate of 16%, a figure that climbs as high as 35% in the worst-affected areas.

The country is also one of the world's poorest. It ranks fifth from the bottom on the United Nations Human Development Index, which looks at quality of life indicators worldwide.

Luz said the Mozambican factory will initially package ARVs produced in Brazil. He said local production is set to begin around April 2010.

The budget for the project is 26 million dollars, Luz said. The factory will ultimately be run by a state-owned firm called the Mozambican Medications Company, and will sell ARVs directly to the Mozambican health ministry. – (Sapa-AFP, June 2009)

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