In The News
U.S. Firm Opens $15M Ugandan AIDS Clinic
October 20, 2004: The Associated Press, By HENRY WASSWA - The largest training center in Africa for health workers treating AIDS sufferers opened outside of Uganda's capital Wednesday in what officials said was a major step toward dealing with the epidemic on the world's poorest continent.
The $15 million Infectious Diseases Institute at the University of Makerere will teach 250 health professionals a year how to train other medical workers in the most modern methods of treating HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
In the process, the center will treat 10,000 patients a year, Dr. Keith McAdam, the director of the institute, said. The university has treated 8,000 patients so far and has already trained 250 health workers since 2001, but the new facility was not opened until Wednesday.
The institute, which comprises of clinics, laboratories and lecture rooms, will be the largest training center in Africa devoted to treating HIV and AIDS. The project was funded by a major U.S. pharmaceutical firm, Pfizer Inc.
"The institute will help in training people how to manage and handle (antiretroviral) drugs. It will train experts to handle people living with AIDS, to care about AIDS patients, prevention of infection and how to best treat people," McAdam said.
McAdam, who is also professor of clinical tropical medicine at the University of London, said the institute will provide free treatment to the patients using drugs provided by major drug companies.
"We are training trainers, people who will train others," he said. "The experts are trained to handle all drugs, including generics."
The use of generic copies of patented drugs has been a major controversy in Africa, where most people live on less than a dollar a day. An estimated 38 million people are infected with HIV worldwide, 25 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
Aid groups have advocated importing cheap generic antiretroviral drugs from India, Brazil and Thailand, while the patent holders, major pharmaceutical companies, have expressed concerns about illicit trade in generics, poor quality pills and drug resistance developing due to improper use.
President Yoweri Museveni, who officially opened the institute, said that 70,000 Ugandans were infected by the AIDS virus last year and he said he hoped that the facility will help find a cure for HIV.
"We need this new institute. We are very happy with the Americans," he said.
He praised the institutes approach of teaching prevention and offering drugs to treat those infected.
"This multi-pronged attack on the enemy will bear results these days," he said after cutting a red ribbon at the gate of the rectangular, single-story, building.
Pfizer executives said the facility was built in Uganda because of the government's steadfast acceptance of the existence of AIDS in the East African country 17 years ago and its aggressive program to control the disease.
Uganda has over a million people who carry the virus that causes AIDS. More than 900,000 of its citizens have died of AIDS-related illnesses since the disease was identified in the country in the 1980s. Hundreds of thousands of children have been orphaned.
"We have an enormous opportunity to build capacity to train trainees in Africa. We are moving from prevention and care to training experts in handling infectious diseases," Pfizer chairman and chief executive, Hank McKinnell, told The Associated Press in an interview.
"With this institute, we now have the capacity to train hundreds or thousands of people. The purpose is to provide high-quality clinical care in Uganda and more widely in Africa," he said.