A three-day summit in Johannesburg, capital of the rainbow nation South Africa, has resulted in a chorus of voices calling for Africa to produce its own versions of low-cost generic drugs for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.
Mamadou Diallo, chief pharmacist in the A.U. commission's medical services directorate, who insists that Africa has the resources and capacity to produce drugs to treat HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB was quoted: "We need to produce (medicines) in Africa. The main objective is to identify which kinds of medicines we are going to produce, essential drugs we need for Africa and who is going to produce these drugs."
At present Africa imports truck loads of low-cost generic drugs from India and China, yet such an agreement is bound to be shaky, as most of these drugs are being subjected to patent laws, as of late.
According to a WHO report, 37 out of 46 African countries have pharmaceutical industries, Egypt has more than 30 drug manufacturing facilities, and Nigeria and South Africa currently manufacture medicines.
Diallo as well as Nthari Matsau, deputy director general in South Africa's health ministry, have confirmed that health ministers would discuss the plan in an attempt to get things moving.
In the meanwhile there were fervent protests by activists who called on the various health ministers to uphold funding pledges and targets for HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and care agreed to last year at an A.U summit in Abuja, Nigeria.
African leaders at the end of that summit had pledged to work toward providing universal treatment access for people living with the diseases on the continent. The leaders, in demonstration of their renewed commitment, had adopted the Abuja Call for Accelerated Action Towards Universal Access to HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Services.
The document lists six goals (to be achieved by 2010) including providing access to basic services to at least five million children who have lost parents to HIV/AIDS; ensuring that at least 80 percent of people have access to voluntary HIV testing and counseling services; ensuring that 80 percent of people have access to condoms for HIV prevention; and ensuring that all HIV-positive people living with TB have access to antiretroviral drugs and counseling.
The declaration also calls for the promotion of partnerships, research and development, and strengthening oversight, evaluation and reporting mechanisms, as well as greater civil society and private sector involvement in controlling the three diseases.