The Common Good
November-December 1999

A Breakthrough Provides Hope

by Laura Dely | November-December 1999

Despite the pall that HIV-AIDS casts across Africa, a few bright spots offer some
relief.

Despite the pall that HIV-AIDS casts across Africa, a few bright spots offer some relief. One of the most promising is a new way to reduce mother-to-child transmission rates using the long-acting antiviral drug nevirapine.

While not quite as effective as the method used in Western countries, nevirapine costs just $3 per course of treatment. Unlike its far more expensive counterparts, a single dose of nevirapine is administered during labor and another during the infant’s first week after birth. AZT, the drug of choice in the West, must begin to be administered in the last two months of a woman’s pregnancy to be most effective, and the infant must continue to receive the drug for the first six weeks of life. The AZT treatment costs about $800 per mother and child, an amount beyond the means of most people in developing countries.

In a study in Uganda released this summer, babies whose infected mothers received experimental short-term courses of AZT—still a far more involved process than the nevirapine treatment—had a 25 percent HIV infection rate. Babies whose mothers were given the nevirapine regime had only a 13 percent HIV infection rate.

With counseling and HIV testing—a necessary part of any prevention program—the cost of nevirapine will be higher than just the cost of the drug. But with a discount that the manufacturer of the drug is expected to offer, nevirapine looks like a positive breakthrough for even the poorest countries, provided they use the opportunity to address their AIDS crisis. Douglas Wilson, an executive of the German company that makes nevirapine, Boehringer Ingelheim, told The Washington Post when the Ugandan study was released that the company "is committed in principle to making the drug as widely available as possible."

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories

Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)