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GHANA: HIV/AIDS drugs to be ordered for hospitals

Accra, 4 July 2003 (PlusNews) - Ghanaian health authorities have ordered antiretroviral drugs from undisclosed sources to cater for the treatment of 2000 HIV/AIDS patients for the next two years.

"We are placing this order through recognised international agencies such as UNICEF and the International Development Agency," programme manager of the National AIDS Control Programme, Dr Nii Akwei Addo, told IRIN.

Some of the drugs on the importation list are Zidovudine, AZT, Didanosine, ddI, Indinavir, Neverapine and Efavirenz. Usage and treatment of these drugs will however be limited to specific hospitals such as the country's two biggest hospitals in the capital, Accra, and in the second largest city, Kumasi.

The drugs will also be made available at the Atua/Agormanya government hospital in eastern Ghana, which according to the country's 2002 HIV Sentinel Survey has a prevalence rate of 7.9 percent, the highest in Ghana.

"The cost of the treatment will not be 100 percent free to the end user. The central government will bear part of the cost, though we are yet to decide on that," Dr Addo said.

The cost of HIV/AIDS treatment in Ghana using antiretroviral drugs is high. It costs between US $200 and $300 per patient a month, which is above the means of the ordinary Ghanaian who earns a daily minimum salary of about $2.

Ghana, last year, had flirted with the idea of producing antiretrovirals locally and mentioned March 2003 as the final production date.

However, Addo said previous attempts to produce three off-patent antiretrovirals locally from Thailand failed due the need to fulfil legal patent rights as well as rules and regulations of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

He however stated that the government had reopened discussions with Thailand, facilitated by the World Health Organisation, into the transfer of technology in the form of expertise to enable Ghana to start production locally.

"Currently, we have looked at resolving the legal issues by exploring the leeway available to us. Negotiations are still continuing on cost-effectiveness in manufacturing the drugs locally or importing them. Cabinet is currently reviewing our recommendations," Addo added.

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[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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