Stirring “Call to Action” on African AIDs Pandemic: Lewis
“Powerful.” “Eloquent.” “Moving.” These were just some of the comments heard from PMCQ members stirred by the oratory of well known statesman Stephen Lewis, special envoy on AIDS in Africa, former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations and former provincial NDP leader. In a moving call to action at the April breakfast meeting, Mr Lewis painted a picture of the devastating effects of the African AIDs pandemic and urged pharmaceutical companies to make a contribution to eradicating the problem.
According to Lewis, the pharmaceutical industry made some “errors in judgement” in dealing with the AIDs pandemic in Africa. These included resistance to lowering prices for AIDs drugs to African countries, and concern about protecting patents and profits. PMCQ members were told that provision of AIDs drugs to Africa has become a major issue because of the human cost of the pandemic. “Everybody understands, in principle, that the drug portion of the pandemic, … is, in effect, a small part of the debate. Except it’s not a small part of the debate. It is the debate,” elucidated Mr. Lewis. There are 28 million people infected with AIDs in Africa, Mr. Lewis told the assembly. “People living with AIDS are tremendously eloquent advocates on their own behalf. They want to live.”
According to Mr. Lewis, the issue is not that pharmaceutical companies have done nothing to help control the African AIDs pandemic. It is, rather, the perception that the industry has not done enough, soon enough, which has damaged its reputation. “It isn’t that you haven’t given money,” he explained. “ But it’s a piece here, a piece there, … with no sense of coherence about the way in which the money is being apportioned.”
In a stirring call to action, Mr. Lewis called on the pharmaceutical industry to make “a huge collective contribution to the [suggested $7-$10 billion] global fund [to fight the AIDS pandemic in Africa]…in a way that helps the continent as a whole.” He also called on pharmaceutical companies to support indigenous manufacturing of AIDs drugs in Africa and to make a public statement of its change in position in time for the G8 summit in June in Canada.” “If the pharmaceutical industry could get together and make a significant contribution to the global fund, the world view of the industry would change overnight,” advised Mr. Lewis.
By: Jadzia Jagiellowicz, President of The Medanalyses Group Inc., providing medical writing & market research services to the pharmaceutical, medical and healthcare industries.