We Can End AIDS by 2030 in India, Africa: Health Minister

india-africabigNDTV; October 30, 2015. NEW DELHI:  India today pledged to work closely with African nations on building a regulatory framework to make pharmaceuticals “accessible and affordable” without compromising with its quality, while asserting that AIDS can be ended by 2030 in both India and Africa.

India also said that for combating AIDS, it has taken a “comprehensive” survey of samples to check and detect sub-standard and spurious drugs and is strengthening the regulatory structures to ensure improvement in the quality of drugs.

Noting that commodity security for medicines is a “major” area of focus, Union Health Minister J P Nadda said India is committed to ensuring that the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) flexibilities will be fully harnessed to provide sustained and uninterrupted access to the life-saving medicines.

TRIPS is an international agreement administered by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that sets down minimum standards for many forms of intellectual property regulation as applied to nationals of other WTO members.

India is also committed to supplying quality and affordable drugs to treat HIV and extend all possible support and cooperation to Africa in fighting AIDS.

“India would work with the African Union on doing a regulatory harmonisation so that pharmaceuticals remain accessible and affordable and without compromising with quality.

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“India would also support establishment of joint ventures in Africa to promote local manufacturing. We commit ourselves in encouraging this and ask companies to work closely with Africa in this direction and help in building technical and human capacities,” Mr Nadda said.

He was speaking at a high-level event ‘Ensuring access to life-saving medicines to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030’ on the sidelines of the 3rd India Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi.

Observing that health commodity security is “critical”, Mr Nadda also said that India will take forward the recommendation of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to create a joint India-Africa cooperation framework on HIV.

Mr Nadda said that in order to detect and check sub-standard and spurious drugs, India has undertaken a comprehensive survey in which 47,800 samples are being picked up from the retail shops, government hospitals, industries and manufacturing units. These are being tested in government lab and results will be available by close of the current year.

“We are also strengthening our regulatory structures including lab facilities to ensure improvement in the quality of drugs. The government has approved a scheme of USD 300 million for this particular purpose.

Mr Nadda said that India stands committed to the world in its fight against HIV and AIDS, particularly to the African nations in the combined resolve to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

“India will extend all support and cooperation in sharing its knowledge and expertise in developing shared frameworks of cooperation and means of implementation towards meeting this goal,” Mr Nadda said.

Noting that health care demands and cost will rise with increase in population, Mr Nadda said that commodity security for medicines must be a major area of focus and India is committed to ensuring that the TRIPS flexibilities will be fully harnessed to provide sustained and uninterrupted access to the life-saving medicines.

“TRIPS flexibilities have proved to be a lifeline for the poor and we have a duty to ensure that this life-line does not snap. I may point out that a common audit and common regulatory mechanism in Africa would facilitate this process considerably.

“India strongly supports flexibility given to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) under the TRIPS agreement in WTO and supports its extension beyond 2016 also,” Mr Nadda said.

Nadda pointed out that both India and Africa must make it easy for communities to access benefits of new scientific research and health.

“That means creating health regulatory frameworks and means of implementation that will ease flow of quality medicines, technology and optimisation of the health workforce to reach maximum people in India and Africa,” he said.

Mr Nadda said that the suggestion on the engagement of young people in combating AIDS and developing leadership in the newer generation is a welcome step and India and Africa can jointly work on it.

“Our fight against AIDS is not over. But it can be. We can end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 – in India and in Africa,” Mr Nadda said.

He said that India would propose a “structured” dialogue on all issues so that vision of leadership is taken forward and realised in the near future with the cooperation of all African nations.

Noting that India was proud to have partnered with Africa in the fight against AIDS and also providing access to antiretroviral (ART) medicines to those suffering from the disease, Mr Nadda said that the mutual cooperation has led to saving millions of lives.

Mr Nadda said that the success stories of South Africa in making ART available to its people and its Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) programme are initiatives that India can emulate.

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