Businesses must play greater role in curbing AIDS: Clinton

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Former US President Mr Bill Clinton addressing a national conference on HIV/AIDS in the Capital on Thursday. - Kamal Narang
Former US President Mr Bill Clinton addressing a national conference on HIV/AIDS in the Capital on Thursday. - Kamal Narang

Our Bureau

New Delhi, May 26

FORMER US President Mr Bill Clinton today asked Indian companies to play a greater role in curbing AIDS by helping provide universal access to drugs. This could be done by further bringing down the cost of drugs.

He also announced that the Clinton Foundation's HIV/AIDS initiative and the Indian Government's National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) will train 1,50,000 doctors from the private sector in India in HIV/AIDS care and treatment over the next year.

"Universal access to medicine can be given by India to the whole world," he said, adding that India has the potential to emerge as the "world's number one model from being number one worry."

The two big barriers to saving lives are availability of affordable medicine and infrastructure for testing and treatment, Mr Clinton said. "AIDS is a 100 per cent preventable disease... yet 8,000 people die every day."

He called upon Indian corporates to have a workplace policy on AIDS awareness and induce people to go for testing. "The business community has a big role to play," he added. "Every day you delay means somebody will die who should not die. It puts the country's whole economic future at risk," he pointed out.

Earlier this morning, while interacting with Indian industry at a conference organised by the CII, Mr Clinton appeared to be completely at ease as he listed four major points that need to be taken care of for AIDS control.

"Countries need to give more to the global fund (for anti-AIDS). We also need to have greater flexibility in the usage of American funds. Third, we need to make serious efforts for controlling paediatric AIDS and build infrastructure for testing facilities," he said.

He said that the Indian pharmaceutical industry had contributed a lot in making the AIDS treatment affordable in the world. However, there had been a shortfall in formulations to treat AIDS in children, he said. The pharmaceutical industry should "make a clear exception" in making drugs available at affordable price, he said.

Mr Clinton, who is on a two-day visit to the country, said AIDS, which was restricted to African countries earlier, was now "fast spreading to countries of the former Soviet Union, the Caribbean, India and China." The Clinton Foundation, under a memorandum of understanding with the Government, is assisting NACO in scaling up the national antiretroviral treatment programme to approximately 188 centres across the country.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 27, 2005)
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