Africa must manufacture own AIDS drugs: AU
* Africa urged to manufacture generic medicine
* Economies would benefit
By Barry Malone
ADDIS ABABA, May 7 (Reuters) - Africa must manufacture its own generic medicine if it is to continue to fight HIV/AIDS during the financial crisis and ensure its faltering economies can benefit from drug production, the African Union (AU) says.
"Africa shouldn't just import drugs all the time," AU Commisioner for Social Affairs, Bience Gawanas, told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference of African ministers for health in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
"Most of our HIV/AIDS drugs come from sources outside Africa. How can we be sure this will continue during the financial crisis?"
South Africa is the only African country that makes its own HIV/AIDS drugs
Michel Sidibé, the new head of the United Nations HIV/AIDS agency and the first African to hold the position, has said ensuring all Africans who suffer from the virus have access to drugs will be his priority.
Most infected Africans have no access to treatment, though a few countries were doing exceptionally well, Gawanas said.
"Some countries in Africa now have 80 percent of people with HIV/AIDS on anti-retroviral drugs," Gawanas said. "But if there are cuts (in support from donor countries) can that progress continue? We need to mobilise local production."
African economies would profit from the drugs being made locally, Gawanas said.
An estimated 33 million people globally are infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS, and most of them live in Africa and other developing countries.