Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Bristol-Myers, Baylor Plan AIDS Initiative

The Bristol-Myers Squibb pharmaceutical company and Houston's Baylor College of Medicine are teaming up to work on pediatric AIDS in Africa.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and the Baylor College of Medicine are launching a $40 million initiative to treat children with AIDS in the developing world, an effort that includes a "pediatric AID corps" to send doctors to Africa to treat about 80,000 children over the next five years.

Under the plan, BCM will put up $10m for medical student loans; BMS will put up $30m for physician stipends. The news report includes some criticism of the effort and additional news about BMS' intention to not enforce it patents in Africa.

We are almost 25 years into the epidemic--at least as far as we are aware of the epidemic. AIDS was certainly a factor in Africa before we in the West understood the threat. Sadly, it's only in the past five years or so that the world's--and the U.S.'--attention has turned in any productive way to dealing with the issue in Africa. It's very easy, in that context, to think of anything less than total commitment as "too little, too late."

Nevertheless, it is good to see the efforts that BMS is putting forth in Africa. Not enforcing its patents is no small thing. Building 4 clinics is small in terms of the continent's needs, but will make a big difference in the communities that they serve.

While it's also good to see that BCM is devoting some attention to pediatric AIDS in Africa, it would be encouraging to see that more HIV education were included in the curriculum for all of the physicians that it trains. We could still stand to build more AIDS savvy among physicians in Texas.

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