AIDS: dangers other than virus

Published: Monday 31 January 2005

US president George Bush launc Calling the matter criminal neglect is a gross understatement. The National Institutes of Health (nih), the us government's premier health research agency, has been accused of risking the lives of hundreds of mothers and babies in Uganda by concealing information on flaws in a us- funded study on a drug called nevirapine. The drug is used in Uganda to reduce the risk of hiv transmission from mothers to babies during childbirth. The nih maintains that nevirapine is safe in single doses and has asked the Institute of Medicine (i o m), an independent body, to conduct a review. The accusations against it were made by Jonathan Fishbein, a nih doctor , before the i o m.

Fishbein says the project wouldn't have been approved if it was meant for the us. "African life, it would appear, is not to be valued as highly as American life." Documents reveal that nih knew about the flaws in the study as early as 2002 but did not disclose them before the us $500 million plan to use nevirapine throughout Africa was launched. In another setback to the aids battle, Swaziland's traditional healer Nhlavana Maseko condemned the use of antiretroviral drugs: "Why do we spend money on something which does not cure the disease?" The country has the world's highest hiv prevalence rate. Swazis are a conservative society and rely on traditional medicine heavily.

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