l’Innocent, an NGO associated with the Cyril Ross Nursery home to
HIV/Aids children is barely hanging on to a life raft weighed down by
critically ill children.
a pharmaceutical ship with life-saving equipment that could allow them a
natural lifespan, passes responsibility for the children around its
multinational company like a football.
the only NGO currently providing life-saving anti-retroviral medication to
those who can’t afford it, Pour l’Innocent has had to make some
is made up of a group that believes underprivileged, sick and orphaned
children have the right to life to be nurtured, to have a chance to make
something of themselves.
child lives because we were able to raise enough for medication for him,
for another child, it means another funeral, shortly. It can’t be
helped. We can’t save them all. It’s too expensive. They are treating
16 HIV positive children at the cost of TT$30,000 a year. That’s almost
half a million dollars.
l’Innocent needs another half a million to treat 16 other children,
dying as you read this, in the arms of a mother with full-blown AIDS, or a
desperate grandmother who has already lost her daughter.
year, five children went overboard, died, succumbed to HIV/AIDS. They may
have lived if they were given the cocktail of anti-retroviral medicine
promised at ten percent of the cost, last March with great fanfare by
GlaxoSmithKline, an international pharmaceutical company.
the ten months since the announcement Katherine Long of Pour l’Innocent
says they have been given the runaround.
expected to be able to buy the drugs as announced at ten per cent of the
cost,” she said.
even after we fulfilled their criteria by providing them with proof of our
NGO status, the children’s medical records, testimonials by doctors,
protocol of treatment, they said it was in the hands of their head office
in Costa Rica.”
eventually stopped taking our calls.
speaking with two managers of GlaxoSmithKline in the space of two days, to
ask why they haven’t yet provided the promised medication, my head began
to spin, and I began to understand what an ordeal the last ten months must
have been to this NGO that wants to keep the Cyril Ross children alive.
they said they had no comment. Then they said Pour l’Innocent hadn’t
initially met the criteria to qualify for preferential drug prices for the
children, but admitted that now they do. Then they said it was out of
their hands because “Head Office” in Costa Rica was dealing with it,
but confusingly added they were doing everything in their power to fast
you can fast track something out of your hands?” I wondered aloud and
they said they were “following up with calls”.
you’re following up, what is the current status?” It’s out of their
hands. Then they said there is a procedure. It is complicated and the
medication needs to be monitored. They said they were delayed because they
were dealing with applications from other NGOs for reduced pricing.
I asked, did they make the announcement of reduced prices for
anti-retroviral with great fanfare, with the media and the former Minister
of Health in town if they hadn’t got approval from head office?
couldn’t answer that one.
it has to be admitted that hearts of the managers at GlaxoSmithKline were
in the right place. After I mentioned the five children who had died since
March, there were many murmurings of the correct platitudes and regrets at
the children’s deaths.
my request they issued a statement on the issue that runs as follows:
has had a long-standing relationship with Pour l’Innocent. Part of this
relationship is our commitment to assist in delivering affordable
anti-retroviral for the treatment of HIV-infected children. We have
honoured this commitment in the past and will continue to do so. We will
continue to assist in providing direct subsidies and donations to this
organisation to assist in the very valuable work being done.”
is excellent PR because it sounds nice and commits nothing.
will the medication to the children be available at ten per cent of the
cost? Why has it taken so long? Will Pour l’Innocent receive something
in writing to confirm that they will provide “direct subsidies and
donations”? How much will they provide? Over what period?
drug companies are no longer doing NGOs a huge favour by providing drugs
at reduced prices for those suffering with HIV/AIDS.
it is their moral obligation to do so, since the prices of life-saving
drugs are jacked up, making them beyond the reach to those who need them
countries such as Nigeria already have begun pressurising pharmaceutical
firms importing cheap copies of patented AIDS drugs from India, cutting
the cost of anti-retroviral from US$5,700 a year to $US320. Nigeria’s
move, according to a Guardian Weekly report follows the court victory by
South Africa over a coalition of pharmaceutical firms which has
established the right of governments to seek cheaper drugs to deal with
time GlaxoSmithKline puts their platitudes into action, providing
antiretroviral drugs at reduced pricing as promised, with the full
understanding that each moment they dither, an HIV child takes another
step towards his or her grave.