Zambia: AIDS emergency in force

Zambia has declared HIV/AIDS a national emergency in a bid to start manufacturing generic AIDS drugs under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, a senior government official said on Friday.

One in every five Zambians is infected with HIV or AIDS, which has orphaned more than 800,000 children and killed nearly 700,000 Zambians since the first case was reported in 1984, informs Reuters.

According to the Yahoo News, the AIDS emergency will be in force from August 2004 to July 2009 and local drugs manufacturers will be allowed to produce cheap AIDS medication for local consumption.

"In view of the pandemic and the high cost of patented anti-retroviral drugs... the minister has signed a statutory instrument (law) to declare an emergency," said commerce permanent secretary Davidson Chilipamushi in a statement. He said the law will allow for the manufacture of life-prolonging AIDS drugs during the five-year emergency period but the medication cannot be exported.

"These are figures ... that remind us of how serious we should face this fight," Health Minister Francisco Songane told reporters after his ministry published the statistics.

"We need to act to reduce the speed of the growth of HIV/AIDS, which is a huge development challenge," Songane said, adding AIDS threatened reconstruction efforts launched after the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo) signed a peace pact in 1992, ending a 16-year civil war.

The Health Ministry report called for "immediate and effective" action to combat AIDS in a country where 1.4 million of the country’s 18 million people -- live with AIDS.

It showed that prevalence of the HIV virus that causes AIDS jumped to 14.9 percent in the 15- to 49-year-old sexually active age group from 13.6 percent in 2002, wrote Newsweek.

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