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Jesuit AIDS Activist Criticizes Drug Companies, Calling Inaction On Drug Access Comparable To Genocide - 2004-01-30


The founder of an AIDS orphanage in Kenya says the lack of available treatment for the disease is comparable to “genocide.” Father Angelo D’Agostino spoke yesterday at the Vatican at a news conference on the Pope’s Lenten message. Father D’Agostino, founder of the Nyumbani home in Nairobi, accused pharmaceutical companies of “lacking a social conscience.”

Friday, English to Africa Joe De Capua spoke to the Jesuit priest and medical doctor as he drove through the city of Rome. He spoke about his comments at the Vatican on HIV/AIDS. He says he was at the Vatican to accept a gift on behalf of the Nyumbani orphanage. But says, “During the course of my remarks, I mentioned that we were still having trouble accessing anti-retroviral drugs in Africa to the extent that in Kenya there are at least 400 people dying every day. In all of Africa, probably 8,000 or 10,000.” He says despite the fact that the drug companies have said they are reducing prices, people are “still dying at an alarming rate.”

Father D’Agostino defends his use of the word genocide in describing the AIDS pandemic. He says nearly one million people died during the Rwanda genocide in 1994, while as many as 25 million people are at risk of dying needlessly because the drugs are not available. “If that isn’t genocide, I don’t know what you would call it,” he says.

The Roman Catholic priest recommends that drug companies lower their prices so they are on a par with the generic drugs produced in India. The Nyumbani orphanage has received free drugs from Brazil, which he says has saved the lives of many children.

Pharmaceutical companies say it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to research and develop new medicines; and if costs are not recouped, they would not be able to continue at the same level of R&D. A number of drug companies have lowered prices on some of their ARV's, anti-retrovirals. Father D’Agostino says the original AIDS fighting drugs were developed with US taxpayer money at Federal agencies and at universities.

Click above links to hear interview with Fr. Angelo D'Agostino.

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