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Monday, 5 November, 2001, 17:51 GMT
Asean aims to cut Aids treatment costs
Chinese women look at poster advertising condom use
Greater awareness of safe-sex practices is vital
By BBC science correspondent Richard Black

Leaders of the Asean group of countries have announced a joint initiative to combat Aids, including seeking access to cheaper treatment.

Asean Secretary-General Rodolfo Severino said the group would look into buying drugs in bulk and negotiating collectively with pharmaceutical companies to lower their prices.

Over 1.5-million people in South East Asia are known to be infected with HIV - the virus that causes Aids - and although the infection rate is declining in some nations such as Thailand, it is rising in others.

Aids drugs
Long term treatment for Aids patients is expensive
Mr Severino said that Asean countries have collaborated closely on issues such as trade and pollution, Aids programmes have so far remained at national level.

One of the ideas that Asean nations will explore is whether they can act collectively to make Aids drugs more affordable.

By buying in bulk, and by applying political pressure on pharmaceutical companies, they believe it may be possible to lower the prices of the anti-retroviral drugs which prevent HIV infection developing into full-blown Aids.

Aids trailblazers

Asean will explore partnerships outside the region, with countries such as South Africa and Brazil, which have already found ways of providing cheaper drugs.

Activists in South East Asia have welcomed the initiative, which involves education and social support as well as medicines.

The Malaysian Aids Council said pharmaceutical companies will have to take notice of this kind of concerted political action, and lower their prices, which could bring benefits to other parts of the world where HIV is running out of control.

See also:

05 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Asean summit struggles to make headway
05 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Asia warned of Aids epidemic
25 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burma faces Aids explosion
01 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thailand launches $1 health scheme
28 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan blood scandal official convicted
23 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
China comes clean on Aids
09 Aug 01 | Europe
Aids scandals around the world
08 Apr 99 | Medical notes
Blood: The risks of infection
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