Guyana Chronicle
November 16, 2003

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THE BREAKTHROUGH achieved by Guyana's success in being able to produce a cocktail of anti-retroviral drugs, at comparatively low cost, for the treatment of persons affected by the HIV/AIDS killer virus, made quite an impact at the just-concluded Special Summit in St. Lucia of Caribbean Community Heads of Government.

Prime Minister Denzil Douglas of St. Kitts and Nevis, who has led responsibility for health matters in CARICOM, with a special focus on efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, called a special media briefing, which he shared with President Bharrat Jagdeo, to discuss the development.

As Guyanese would be aware, the cocktail of anti-HIV/AIDS drugs, being produced by the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation, is available locally as well as for export at a cost of US$200 a year for those in need of such treatment.

Although still profitable for the producers, the cost sharply contrasts with the hitherto staggering US$2000 and more that those afflicted within CARICOM have had to find for their treatment.

Thanks to the Clinton Foundation, established by former US President Bill Clinton, the decline in cost for the cocktail of anti-HIV/AIDS drugs had started even before the US Congress approval of the US$15 billion aid package requested by President George W. Bush to help countries combat the killer virus, especially the worse afflicted in Africa and in the Caribbean, such as Haiti and Guyana.

Last week in Castries, both President Jagdeo and Prime Minister Douglas gave added emphasis to the earlier observance by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson of Jamaica of the importance of what could be achieved when the Community states work together for set objectives, as in the current battle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Heads of Government agreed to accept the suggestion by President Jagdeo for cooperation with the Guyana Ministry of Health and the Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation to satisfy themselves about the value of the cocktail of anti-retroviral drugs by conducting their own laboratory tests for which this country has already secured relevant approval.

Praise for Douglas
Prime Minister Douglas was separately commended by Patterson and Jagdeo for his "indefatigable contributions" in helping to mobilise regional and international resources to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The CARICOM Secretariat was also commended for consistent levels of technical support.

Douglas told the media in Castries that the availability of the cocktail of anti-retroviral drugs, as produced by Guyana and available at a fixed cost of US$200 in CARICOM countries, marked an "important and critical development" in the life of thousands of people in the region affected by HIV/AIDS.

The availability of the approved anti-retroviral drugs at the lowest cost so far in the Caribbean, highlighted, said Douglas, the latest success in the concerted efforts of the region's governments to advance the anti-HIV/AIDS campaign, originally determined in The Bahamas two years ago.

With the help of the Global Fund for assistance in the fight against HIV/AIDS, some US$40 million were now available to countries of the Caribbean to intensify their programmes and to help save the lives of those affected by the virus.