India Looks to Improve African Health
At the recent India-Africa summit in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met 54 African heads of state to discuss ways of deepening relationships, including working together to improve public health.
For India, the main goal is to increase its lucrative pharmaceutical exports to Africa, which make up about 16% of total exported items including 85% of all antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV. African ministers, meanwhile, are keen to copy India’s success in developing its drug manufacturing industry, both to secure their own medicine supplies and to give their economies a fillip.
India can be proud of its role in driving down the cost of HIV treatment in Africa and elsewhere through its supply of cheap drugs. It would be unwise, however, to assume that what has worked for HIV will work for all the other health problems faced by Africans and Indians.
HIV has been singled out for attention by western governments, which have poured billions of dollars into health infrastructure in addition to paying for the majority of the (largely Indian-made) antiretroviral drugs that are currently relied on by African patients.
Yet outside a handful of sub-Saharan African countries such as SA, HIV/AIDS constitutes only 3.1% of all deaths (0.77% in India). Far more people die from heart disease, strokes and lung disease, and easily treatable diseases such as diarrhoea remain a leading cause of death.
India manufactures vast quantities of cheap off-patent medicines that could slash death rates for these diseases in Africa and India, but they are not getting to those who need them, either at home or abroad.
- Health Care