Activists protest Glaxo-Wellcome contract
7 novembre 2000 (Omololu Falobi)
DAKAR, 7 November 2000 (Omololu Falobi)
By Omololu Falobi, reporting from Dakar, Senegal
A visit to the venue of a media relations workshop for African community groups in Dakar, Senegal turned sour for the head of a Kenyan consultancy outfit yesterday after participants attacked his contract with pharmaceutical giant Glaxo-Wellcome to carry out training programmes for Africans living with AIDS. At the opening ceremony of a week-long workshop that kicked off in the Senegalese capital on Monday, Pape Syr Diagne, Director of the Centre for African Family Studies (CAFS) based in Nairobi, Kenya had announced that his centre had won a bid from Glaxo-Wellcome to run capacity-building programmes for PWAs across Africa.
The bid was advertised in June this year and several African consultancies put in entries, he explained. CAFS was announced winner late September.
Under the project, CAFS is expected to liase with PWA organizations and design and implement capacity-building projects according to their needs. The project would cost $400, 000 and would run for a year, Sagne also announced. He had learnt that representatives from several African countries were attending the Dakar meeting and he had come to solicit their partnership.
If the elderly gentleman was expecting offers of collaboration from the participants at the meeting which was organised by the African Council of AIDS Service Organisations (AfriCASO) under the International Partnership Against AIDS in Africa (IPAA), he was wrong.
Speaker after speaker queried the rationale for Glaxo-Wellcomeís choice of a consultant to carry out the project instead of directly funding PWA organisations. They also criticised the total value of the project, describing it as mere pittance.
It seems to me that the pharmaceuticals are trying to get rid of their bad conscience , said Burundian Salvatore Niyonzima, a focal point for people with AIDS at UNAIDS headquarters in Geneva.
Lucky Mazibuko, a HIV-positive journalist from South Africa was angrier. The pharmaceutical companies use these inconsequential initiatives to boast that they are ploughing back into the society. We should have the capacity to say No to things that are useless to us .
Michael Angaga, secretary-general of the African Network of People living with AIDS (NAP+) who was also attending the meeting, asked why the pharmaceutical company did not provide the money directly to PWA organisations. Therese Lethu, a journalist from France wanted to know if either Glaxo or CAFS had conducted an evaluation of projects implemented under (Glaxo s earlier) Positive Action programme and identified the weaknesses and lessons learned.
Lucy Ng ang a from Tanzania asked whether CAFS had evaluated capacity-building programmes that were already being run by PWAs and how this new initiative would feed into the existing projects. She also wondered why CAFS did not contact existing regional networks to nominate members for the programme s advisory board, rather than select a few friendly individuals, as CAFS seems to have chosen to do.
The criticisms were rather too hot for the CAFS gentleman, who protested in passable English that he was not being used by any pharmaceutical company. He agreed that the budget provided by Glaxo-Wellcome for the project was nothing compared to the huge profits they have made from sale of anti-AIDS drugs at exorbitant prices, but insisted that was his personal position which had nothing to do with his job at CAFS.
He even denied his organisation was yet to sign a contract with Glaxo-Wellcome on the project, though he had earlier announced that CAFS had already held a workshop in October with some selected African AIDS activists as part of the project.
My institution is not being used. We know exactly what we are doing. It is true that many international organisations including the pharmaceutical companies are not doing what they should do, but I think we are facing a crisis here and we need to use any resources that we can find , Diagne protested.
That didn’t assuage the anger of some of the PWAs at the meeting.
If your organisation was more aware, perhaps you wouldnít accept this contract. I am really aggrieved. Though I am happy for you, my heart is bleeding , moaned Mazibuko.
The hot exchanges were only brought to a close when organisers called for a tea break.
The meeting had in attendance 31 participants from 18 countries of Africa as well as from the USA, Switzerland and France. There were also representatives from UNAIDS as well as from AfriCASO partner organisations : the Network of African People living with HIV/AIDS (NAP+) and the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa (SWAA).
Participants were a mix-mash of journalists, people living with AIDS, representatives of community-based organisations, HIV/AIDS activists as well as coordinators of HIV/AIDS networks across the continent.
Interestingly, the workshop itself was sponsored by a pharmaceutical company - Merck, Sharp and Dohme (MSD) - manufacturers of the anti-HIV drugs Crixivan and Stocrin.