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UNAIDS’ Head Slams Pharma Companies for Choosing Profit over Protecting African Lives

Africa is highly dependent on international funding to tackle Aids

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Hrishita Chatterjee
Hrishita Chatterjee
Covering culture and trending topics

UGANDA: Winnie Byanyima, head of UNAIDS, has criticized pharmaceutical big shots for emphasizing profits over protecting the lives of African people, calling it “racist” inequalities that are producing unnecessary shackled in ending Aids in Africa.

Winnie Byanyima stated, “Although if people are reluctant to admit it, in my opinion, that is racism: privileging a small group of white people’s financial gain over the lives of black and brown people everywhere. Many times, they don’t come forward for fear of society’s sanctions against them.”

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People belonging to the transgender communities, sex workers, gay men, and other marginalized groups were the main segment affected by these infections. 

Same-sex relationships are criminalized in 32 African countries, which puts a bar on the people belonging to the LGBTQIA+ communities to access proper reproductive health services. Gay men in places with stricter anti-LBGTQIA+ laws were more than three times less likely to be aware of their HIV status. 

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Despite an absence of incentives for innovation, Byanyima points out that profit companies have the upper hand in providing important medications. Martin Shkreli, who had become an idol of “pharma greed” after increasing the price of the lifesaving drug, Daraprim, used in the treatment of Aids patients, by 5,000% in 2015. 

Byanyima said, “The World Trade Organization’s regulations permit the transfer of lifesaving pharmaceuticals in the same manner as luxury products. They permit pharmaceutical firms to set prices wherever they choose, to hold onto their innovations, and to make billions at the expense of human lives.”

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Africa is highly dependent on international funding to tackle a disease as gruesome as Aids. Zimbabwe became the first African country in 2022 to approve the drug cabotegravir for usage, but the country’s economic mishap made it unavailable.  

More than half of all new infections take up sub-Saharan Africa. Women and marginalized groups suffer from higher rates of infections where illnesses related to Aids are the main reason for the death of African women and adolescent girls.

There is still a taboo lurking when it comes to HIV. At the University of Nairobi, Byanyima elucidated a personal story about how her HIV-infected brother terminated using antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, which are used with few issues in Europe.

“He didn’t die of HIV. He was killed by stigma, and there are many forms of discrimination in this area, which is why there are so many HIV cases there,” Byanyima concluded. 

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