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New Efforts Aim to Get More H.I.V. Drugs to Poor Countries

I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Development Report.

The fight against AIDS got some more help earlier this month. The Swiss drug manufacturer Roche and the Clinton Foundation announced separate efforts to provide H.I.V. drugs to poor nations.

Roche says it will provide drug companies in developing nations with technical assistance to make copies of a drug called saquinavir. Saquinavir is taken in combination with other medicines. It is used to treat H.I.V. patients with or without AIDS.

H.I.V. is the virus that develops into AIDS. Victims lose their ability to fight infections. For example, many people with AIDS die of tuberculosis.

Roche says it plans to start its technology transfer program in more than sixty nations, mostly in Africa and Asia. Officials say the countries represent about seventy percent of all people living with H.I.V. and AIDS. Medical experts say more than forty million people are infected around the world.

Roche says it will have a special team to deal with requests later this year. The company's chief, William Burns, says the drug maker wants to share its knowledge to help strengthen local drug manufacturers. Some of the team will be based in Africa.

The action announced by the Clinton Foundation involves two other H.I.V. medicines: efavirenz and abacavir. The foundation has negotiated agreements with drug makers to cut the cost of these two antiretroviral drugs by more than thirty percent. This will involve five companies in India and South Africa.

The Clinton Foundation says it has also secured agreements involving tests for H.I.V. Four companies have agreed to provide developing nations with testing supplies at half of what they cost now. The companies are in China, India, Israel and the United States.

Bill Clinton calls the agreements an important step in the fight against H.I.V. and AIDS. The former president says that together they will help fifty developing nations.

H.I.V. can be spread by sexual relations, or infected blood or blood products. The virus can pass between pregnant women and their babies, and between drug users who share injection needles.

Last year the world had an estimated three million AIDS-related deaths and five million new infections. Medicine can suppress H.I.V., but not prevent it or cure it.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. Read and listen to our reports at I’m Steve Ember.