US offers $1bn loan to fight Aids in Africa

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The Independent Online

The United States will lend $1bn (£670m) a year to sub-Saharan African countries to help them buy US-made drugs and support their battle against the Aids epidemic, the US Export-Import Bank said yesterday.

The United States will lend $1bn (£670m) a year to sub-Saharan African countries to help them buy US-made drugs and support their battle against the Aids epidemic, the US Export-Import Bank said yesterday.

The plan builds on an announcement by major drug companies in May to provide drugs to combat HIV, the virus that causes Aids, at major discounts to countries that cannot afford commercial prices.

"This is something we've been working on, in part with our G8 [Group of Eight] partners, to follow up our commitment to do more for countries that are trying to stem the tide of Aids, particularly in Africa," said an official.

More than 13 million Africans have died from Aids and nearly 24 million people on the continent have either HIV or Aids. Economists have said the escalating epidemic is the biggest threat to the continent's economy.

At a conference this month in South Africa, the head of the UN agency charged with battling Aids said spending on fighting the disease must be rapidly increased to $3bn (£2bn), a figure that would cover basic prevention and care but not the cost of drugs.

The price of various so-called combination therapies of drugs, which can substantially prolong the lives of HIV patients, range between $10,000 (£6,700) and $15,000 (£10,000) each year per patient. Drug companies are expected to slash those prices to between $1,000 (£670) and $2,000 (£1,340) per patient to needy nations.

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