Just Focus » HIV/AIDS
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Posts Tagged ‘HIV/AIDS’

Project Friendship

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

In August, people across New Zealand will be buying $3 colourful, hand-woven friendship bracelets and wearing them to support the work of Volunteer Services Abroad (VSA) volunteers in developing countries This year Project Friendship is focusing on youth. Money from each sale will support VSA volunteers who are working with young people on issues such as children’s rights, HIV and AIDS and the environment.

Find out how you can get involved at: www.vsa.org.nz/what-you-can-do/schools-and-youth/vsa-project-friendship

Positive People- Overcoming Prejudice

Friday, July 31st, 2009

By Cassandra Tse

HIV and AIDS can affect anyone. Since it was first reported in the 1980s, myths and mistruths have sprung up about the condition leading to ignorance and discrimination. This ignorance has, in part, led to the spread of HIV and AIDS throughout the world and prejudice has made many people who know little about the condition blame or ostracise the victim.

Young survivors of HIV and AIDS, also known as “positive people”, face more than a life threatening condition. The attitudes of those around them can cause just as much suffering. The courageous young people who have to cope with this illness every day of their lives deserve our admiration.


“I received HIV through breastfeeding from my mom and my mom received it through a blood transfusion. When the doctor told me, I froze, then bent my head and cried… I looked at my mom and her eyes were full of tears.”
Haylie, 14

However, people with HIV can live ordinary, even extraordinary lives. Being HIV-positive doesn’t mean you cannot live until old age, find understanding and support, and fulfil your dreams of a starting a family, or building a successful career - it’s possible to rise above this hurdle. Fifteen-year-old Nic wrote about her life as a “positive person” on Avert.org, a website dedicated to young HIV and AIDS sufferers:

“Live life to the fullest and never give up on your dreams. I know I haven’t. I wake up every morning and I tell myself that I’m going to live one more day, if only to see my friends embarrass themselves again, or to walk down the hall at school screaming rock songs at top my lungs. I know that one day, I will die, but I plan to life a live that is as full as I can make it.”
Nic, 15.

Some Facts

  1. The UN Convention for the Rights of the Child is the most subscribed to human rights treaty in history - only two countries are yet to adopt it: the United States and Somalia.pills
  2. One out of six children in the world today is involved in child labour, doing work that is damaging to his or her mental, physical and emotional development.
  3. The UN Convention for the Rights of the Child is the most subscribed to human rights treaty in history - only two countries are yet to adopt it: the United States and Somalia.
  4. One out of six children in the world today is involved in child labour, doing work that is damaging to his or her mental, physical and emotional development.
  5. Worldwide, it is estimated that 2.1 million young people are living with HIV, while more than 15 million children under 18 have been orphaned as a result of AIDS.


  • Stop and think about the young people In New Zealand and all over the world that face adversity everyday!
  • Discuss the issues with other young people at www.justfocus.org.nz
  • Try and raise awareness about the issues - talk to your friends, lobby influential people to support the cause, share your opinion in the local media or online.
  • Join the fight against discrimination and prejudice, at the Global Youth Coalition on HIV and AIDS www.youthaidscoalition.org


Find out more about the Convention on the Rights of the Child www.unicef.org/crc
Unite for Children against AIDS - www.uniteforchildren.org
Human Rights Watch - www.hrw.org - child labour

This article was originally published in the Global Focus pages of Tearaway Magazine.

Start dancing - Stop AIDS

Friday, July 17th, 2009

By Joy Foster Christie

aids_ribbonHIV and AIDS
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) first appeared in the USA in the early 1980s and was officially recognised by scientists several years later. As HIV reproduces, it damages the body’s immune system and the human body slowly becomes more and more susceptible to infection and illness. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the advanced state of HIV infection.

The infections associated with AIDS are severe, and usually lead to premature death. There is no cure. HIV is spread through infected blood and can be caught by having unprotected sex with an HIV positive person. The sharing of needles and syringes can also transmit the disease, as can childbirth and breastfeeding.

In 2007, there were over 33 million people living with HIV. More than 59% of those infected were living in Sub-Saharan Africa, the  most heavily affected region in the world.

HIV and young people
Every time a person dies of HIV and AIDS related illnesses, a family and community are affected. The impact of HIV and AIDS on young people is the most severe, particularly due to rising numbers being orphaned because of the disease. Young people are left in a vulnerable position with no adults to care for them. They are also affected by discrimination because of stigma attached to having HIV or AIDS, or losing their parents to AIDS.

Photo: Reza Vaziri

Photo: Reza Vaziri

Many are denied schooling because they may be sick themselves, their teachers are sick, or they may have to stay home to care for their siblings or sick parents. These issues, as well as financial strains such as the cost of medical care and funerals, put many children and young people at risk and further deepen poverty.

The power of dance
Dance has long been a way of identifying and expressing culture. It plays an important role in society, not only preserving culture, but also recording new ideas and acting as a way to communicate.

Dance in indigenous cultures is performed to keep culture alive, to pass on stories to young people and teach them about their culture,

values and beliefs. It is used as a form of social interaction, and can express ideas and emotions or tell a story. In a way, dance equalises people and social differences, and reduces barriers. Around the world, dance is being used as a way to raise awareness and understanding of HIV and AIDS.

Dance4Life is an initiative set up to get young people to stand up against the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Beginning as nothing but a  dream of two men, Dance4Life developed into such a compelling idea that hundreds of thousands of people around the world have now turned the dream into a reality.

Dance4Life uses dance to get young people involved and inspired to help fight AIDS. Educators, dancers and musicians teach young people how to speak to an audience, tell a story and raise awareness with their dancing. Dance4life gives young people the chance to learn life skills and offers them the opportunity to become an Agent of Change and transform the world they live in today.

An Agent of Change is a young person who gets actively involved and participates in the Schools4Life activities, which use dance, media and music to promote a message of personal and community responsibility.

By 2014 Dance4Life aims to have one million agents worldwide, a goal that seems possible with over 55,000 youth becoming agents since 2003. Dance4Life targets young people due to the majority of new HIV infections every day being in people under 25 years of age. “Young people are the future and they have the power to halt the spread of HIV and AIDS. By uniting all over the world and demanding change, they can make a difference.” (Dance4life)dance_logo

Each and every one of us has the ability to make changes in our lives and contribute to the global fight against HIV and AIDS. By learning more about the disease you will become more aware of the risks and will better prepared to take care of yourself and help others.  Other ways in which you can raise awareness and educate your friends and family are listed below:

  • Discuss HIV and AIDS with family and friends. Talk to your class about the issue, and encourage people to look beyond the stereotypes and stigma attached to HIV and AIDs.
  • Raise money for an AIDS charity, or just raise awareness at your school by organising a dance-a-thon at your school. By organising a dance, you will raise awareness about the disease itself and show others how helping fight AIDS can be as simple as getting your dance shoes on. Get in touch with your school committee or other group that can help you plan the event.
  • Write an article for your local newspaper, either raising awareness about HIV and AIDS or the ways in which dance can be used as a way of doing so.
  • If you are really serious about the issue join a global campaign and contribute to the worldwide effort  to start really making at difference you want to see.

If you want to learn more about HIV and AIDS, about the history of dance, or learn how you can raise awareness here are some sites that may help:

The foundation for AIDS research http://amfar.org
World AIDS Day - www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGcnc2tgjZI

Indigenous dance: Traditional and Contemporar
History of Dance

This article was originally published in the Global Focus pages of Tearaway Magazine.

Escape to hope

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

By Josh Wright

overcoming_photo1It’s difficult to perceive lifestyles that are different from the relatively privileged ones that many New Zealanders live. Although not perfect, the rights of children are strongly enforced in our country and this helps towards creating a safe and supportive society for us to grow up in.

This is not true in many parts of the world. Every day, across the globe, 250 million children (73 million under the age of 10!) go to work. These child labourers commonly work 12-18 hour days, for little money and are often forced to work in dangerous environments. They are likely to receive very little or no education. These children may work to contribute to the family income. Some children are used as debt bondage and work in order to pay off their parent’s loan. Others are orphans who lost parents to HIV/AIDS.

In India, although there is governmental policy which makes employing children under the age of 14 illegal, loop holes exist (or the law is just ignored) and there are an estimated 30-50 million child labourers through out the country.

One of those children was ten-year-old Lavanya, who was sent by her parents to serve as a maid and errand-runner to a family who lived eight hours drive away from her hometown. Her parents gave away their daughter in exchange for $132.00 US dollars a year. Lavanya was beaten by her employers and for two years was made to work from 6am to 9pm.

Talk about overcoming adversity! Lavanya decided this couldn’t go on and used tips given secretly to her by house guests to buy a train ticket and escape to the Indian city of Nellore. Here she encountered a worker for Kalaiselvi Karunalaya Social Welfare Society, an organisation that works with runaway street kids. Lavanya was supported to return to her hometown and family and is no longer working, but instead, she is receiving proper schooling.

Lavanya has hope for the future again.

YWCA of Aotearoa-New Zealand (YWCA and Y-Dub)

Friday, February 20th, 2009


What do they do?
The YWCA of Aotearoa-New Zealand work to empower women, especially young women, to reach their potential. They acknowledge their Christian and women’s heritage and commit themselves to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and to addressing all forms of oppression so that women together may attain social and economic justice.

How can I get involved?

There are nine YWCA Local Associations around Aotearoa-New Zealand, each offering valuable programmes and community services.

Check out the local association web sites here to discover what they are doing in your community.

VSA (Volunteer Service Abroad)

Friday, February 20th, 2009


What do they do?
VSA recruits and sends skilled New Zealanders to work as volunteers with communities in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.

How can I get involved?
Volunteer overseas! VSA has formed an alliance with Students Partnerships Worldwide (SPW) and is recruiting now for 18-28 year olds looking for a 9-11 month experience in Africa. You will go through a training programme, where you’ll learn new and fun ways of teaching messages about health and the environment. Then you will be posted to a community with local volunteers, where you will be supported by SPW to work on one of three key themes: health (and in particular HIV/AIDS education), the environment, or community development.

(red): Selfish giving?

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Part one of a two part series by William Zhang

A giant global initiative’ aimed at you…
If I told you that some of the largest multinational corporations in the world have joined together to form a giant global initiative’ which is targeted at you, the consumer, what would you think? With names including Microsoft, Apple, Motorola, Hallmark, Converse, Gap, Emporio Armani, and even American Express, you’d probably think it must be some sort of a marketing conspiracy by the most powerful companies in the world to get us all to spend more money and boost their profits.

What if I told you that these companies are not after your money for their profit, but to help the fight against AIDS in Africa — would you believe me? That these enormous companies, with a combined profit exceeding the GDP of many small nations, are committed to fighting the ongoing struggle against AIDS. And that so far, $100 million has already been contributed by this initiative. That we’re not talking about simple donations and charity, but something much bigger and more sustainable.
Don’t believe me? Just walk down to an electronics store and look for a red coloured iPod. That’s right — a red iPod. Trust me, there’ll be one there. This little red iPod is proof that these huge multinational companies are not all about sales and profit.

What’s so special about a red iPod?

The answer is PRODUCT(RED). PRODUCT(RED) is a global initiative in which some of the world’s largest companies are working together to promote their unique PRODUCT(RED) branded items. What makes these products special is that up to 50% of the profit from their sales is given to the Global Fund, an organisation established to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa. The PRODUCT(RED) range includes iPods, laptops, credit cards, watches, shirts, shoes and even birthday cards. Usually, there’s little or no difference in price between a PRODUCT(RED) item and a normal one.

aids ribbonAccording to its website, PRODUCT(RED) is neither a charity nor a campaign, but an “economic initiative that acts to deliver a sustainable flow of private sector money to the Global Fund.” The key word here is sustainable. Rather than simply asking these corporations to donate a chunk of money to the Global Fund, a sustainable and longer lasting flow’ of money is created through giving a percentage of the profits from consumer purchases. Sounds good right? Before we can dig any deeper into this issue though, we need to know what exactly holds together the PRODUCT(RED) initiative.

What does the initiative rely on for its success?
While on the surface it may appear that the ultimate aim is to help AIDS victims in Africa, once we look a little closer it becomes clear that all three groups involved (consumers, companies and the Global Fund) are in it for themselves. Ultimately, PRODUCT(RED) is based on the premise that our actions are usually motivated by personal gain.

As consumers, we think that we are getting a great product, while at the same time supporting a great cause and making a statement about our values. In effect though, our actual motivation is the feeling of generosity and satisfaction from knowing that part of our purchase is going towards helping AIDS victims in Africa. It’s this feel good’ sensation which motivates consumers. We’re encouraged to think: “Why not? I’m going to buy this anyway, so why not do some good if it doesn’t cost me much extra?”

The companies involved are also motivated by self-interest, concealed behind the mask of good will’ or charity’. Ultimately, they hope their image and reputation will be enhanced, which will have a positive impact on their profits. After all, profit is the primary goal of private sector business. These corporations are aware that as consumers become more ethically minded, lab-workthey’re more likely to buy products which give them the feel good’ sensation.

Finally, the Global Fund is obviously motivated by the boost to their finances, allowing them to build more treatment centres, research facilities and improve medical supplies in Africa, especially for women and children.

What’s wrong with a bit of self-interest?
Although there is a tendency in society to see self-interest as selfish and egotistic, it is the key factor holding together the PRODUCT(RED) initiative. Like it or not, in this case at least, philanthropy is only a mask for self-gain.

For instance, if the companies involved did not gain from PRODUCT(RED), it’s unlikely that they would have even taken part and the initiative would never have gotten off the ground. In a survey by The Conference Board, a business research organisation, 77 % of businesses said that the needs of the business itself is the most critical factor to affect their giving’ to charity, campaigns or initiatives). This pretty much confirms that corporate philanthropy is a myth.

Likewise, if consumers were not motivated by the feel good’ sensation, the PRODUCT(RED) label would become just another brand among the ranks of Ralph Lauren, VISA and Sony Ericsson. This feel good’ sensation is the major point of difference’ for the PRODUCT(RED) brand — it lets you be both consumeristic’ and socially conscious’ at the same time!

A win-win situation for everyone?

By now, you’re probably thinking: Great! I get an awesome feel good’ product, the companies enjoy some promotion and the Global Fund is able to do more to combat AIDS in Africa. If only it were that simple.

If you read a little more about PRODUCT(RED) on the internet, you’ll find several articles where it is quite savagely attacked . For example, check out Spending to save, (Product)Red: help or hindrance?, or the Buy (Less) Crap campaign, which questions whether shopping really is the answer. Before you make up your mind though, read on to my next article and see why I really think it is worthwhile to support PRODUCT(RED).

red girl


Give (red) a chance!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Part two of a two part series by William Zhang

red paint brushIf you went over to your local hospital with a group of friends and volunteered to clean and repaint the entire children’s ward, only to demand afterwards that you all be shown on the 6 o’clock news so that the entire country can see what great people you are, would this be considered socially acceptable? No, of course it wouldn’t be.

So, is it ok that a group of huge multinational companies are actively promoting their contribution to the Global Fund, a foundation set up to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria? If you’ve read through any of the articles I listed in Part One, your answer will probably be an outright NO WAY!’ Before I tell you why I think it really IS worthwhile to support PRODUCT(RED), let’s take a closer look at the issue from the critics’ perspective.

Who benefits most?
Essentially, the argument is about whether the multinational corporations are benefiting more from their increased sales and improved corporate image than the AIDS victims are benefiting from the improvements in medical care, treatment and research centres.
Many of the critics point to the reasons why companies choose PRODUCT(RED) over alternative ways to contribute to “worthy” causes.
The first reason is the initiative’s visibility. With backing and support from celebrities such as U2’s Bono, Giorgio Armani, Julia Roberts and The Killers, any association with the PRODUCT(RED) brand in the media and with youth culture is likely to hugely benefit the image, prominence and reputation of the companies involved.

The second reason is PRODUCT(RED)’s ability to mask the actual extent to which the companies are contributing to the initiative. All of the companies are made to look equal, despite the Red mobiledifferences in the amount they actually contribute and the small proportion of the retail cost which actually finds its way to the fund. For instance, one percent of all spending on American Express’s (RED) card goes to the Global Fund as does fifty percent of the net profit from the sale of Gap (RED) items, and just $8.50 from the sale of a Motorola (RED) Motorazr. In effect, companies are contributing relatively little while being portrayed through PRODUCT(RED) marketing as giving generously to the cause.

What’s the problem?
Is PRODUCT (RED) the most effective way support the cause? A more transparent option would be a direct campaign set up by the company itself, meaning that a set amount of money would be given to a specific cause.

Another aspect of the PRODUCT(RED) initiative which has been brutally criticised is the amount spent on advertising and promoting the brand compared to the amount actually raised for the Global Fund. In its March 2007 issue, the Advertising Age magazine reported over $100 million had been spent on advertising, but only $18 million raised as a result. They make the argument that the Global Fund could have received that $100 million if the money was directly donated rather than channelled through PRODUCT(RED).

Some reports even go on to say that based on these figures, the companies have purposely chosen PRODUCT(RED) because it allows them to spend the difference between the $100 million and the $18 million on promoting their own corporate image and improving their sales and profits!

The crucial flaws to this argument are…
These critics have completely forgotten the other benefit of the PRODUCT(RED) initiative — not financial support, but simply bringing the issue of AIDS and poverty in Africa under the public spotlight. For example, some consumers would have had little awareness of the growing AIDS crisis in Africa had it not been for the PRODUCT(RED) advertising campaigns. You sure can’t beat an ad during the half-time break of the American Super Bowl watched by 90 million people!

CashMany critics have also ignored a crucial statistic which blows their argument into tiny fragments: the amount of money raised for the Global Fund is now over four times more than the amount the private sector had contributed prior to the establishment of PRODUCT(RED). An increase of over four times their original funds! Surely you can’t say that PRODUCT(RED) is just an attempt by companies to improve their corporate image if they’ve managed to quadruple the finances of the Global Fund within a two year period?

The reason why the arguments against PRODUCT(RED) are flawed is that they insist on focusing on what the companies are getting out of it by comparing it to alternatives, such as giving set amount directly to a cause, rather than looking at the initiative in terms of the beneficial changes it has made to the lives of the victims of AIDS, disease and poverty in Africa. The truth is, it IS a win-win situation for everyone involved, even if some groups (such as the multinational corporations) appear to win’ more than others. Some people are upset that the companies are even benefitting from PRODUCT(RED) at all!

These people forget that in a world driven by self-interest and personal gain, this imbalance is crucial to holding the entire initiative together (see Part One). Ironically, in attacking the imbalances of PRODUCT(RED), such critics are actually affirming the very principle which PRODUCT(RED) relies on for its success!

My (RED) soapbox:
Global Fund LogoWhatever the motivation of PRODUCT(RED) companies, the initiative has undeniably made a real difference to the medical treatment of AIDS victims in Africa. Does it really matter that the companies are in it for themselves or that only a tiny proportion of the funds are actually going to the Global Fund? No. I don’t think that’s the important thing.

“When I was going to medical school a few years back, we would see patients and send them home knowing they were going to die without medication … I don’t feel that way now. The money we got from (RED) through the Global Fund is helping to save lives. That’s the important thing.”

Dr. Asiimwe, Managing Director for the Treatment and Research AIDS Centre, Kigali.

The important thing is that lives in Africa are being saved. The important thing is that we need to stop this argument against PRODUCT(RED) because while we argue, lives are being lost. PRODUCT(RED) needs your help, not your criticism. So buy (RED). Save lives. Has there ever been a better reason to shop?

Visit joinred.com to find out more and check out all the cool stuff you can buy to support PRODUCT(RED)

And find out more about The Global Fund
Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) The main advocate for global action on HIV/AIDS that aims to strengthen and support the response to the epidemic

The Who, What, and Why of Tuberculosis.net

Unicef on malaria

red girl
What do you think? Have your say on the forum!

Join the PRODUCT(RED) campaign

Help to spread the word

The Pharmaceutical drugs industry: TRIPSy!

Monday, September 18th, 2006

Mariana Gledhill
assorted pillsEveryone in the world desires good health, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives everyone in the world the right to have access to medical care that allows them to have adequate health and wellbeing. Pharmaceutical drugs are often able to help provide this, and help people live longer lives. However, not everyone is able to afford the drugs that they need to take in order to live.

“Big Pharma”
The “Big Pharma”, which make up the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, set prices high in order to make big profits (Robinson, 2001). Patents are put on drugs in order to stop other companies making cheaper copies of them. The Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) aspects of intellectual property agreement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) backs these companies up. The WTO aims that by 2016, all countries in the world will have laws that will restrict companies from making drugs when they do not have a patent that will allow them to do so (Legrain, 2002).

The power of patents
The Big Pharma argue that honouring of patents is necessary, because they say that Research and Development is expensive. Without the honouring of patents, drug companies will not want to make new drugs. This claim has been disputed. The largest drug companies are the most profitable in the world and they only spend 15% of their budgets on Research and Development, which mostly involves the testing of the drugs.(Angell, 2004)

Where do the drugs come from?
bottle of pillsThe drug companies do not actually discover the new drugs; chemists who are based in universities and other training institutions do. Drug companies merely buy the compounds off these developers. Some of these compounds are existent in nature, but residents of the areas where they have been found do not usually benefit from them.

One example is the Neem tree, which is found in India. This tree is known in Sanskrit as Sarva Roga Nivarini, ‘the curer of all ailments’ and it has been used by Indians for thousands of years in various medicines and fertilizers (Davis, 1998). However, the rights to this tree were sold to W. R. Grace & Co. in 1988. Patenting of natural products by companies for the sake of profit is common, and existing intellectual property laws do not give indigenous people much room to claim the knowledge that their ancestors bequeathed to them (Davis, 1998).

Where is the money in pharmaceuticals?
Drug companies spend most of their budgets on the marketing of drugs, rather than research and development. Big sellers are drugs that are popular in the global North: drugs for conditions such as hay fever, and impotency. There is not much money in drugs for the diseases that attack the populations of the South, and even when there is, drugs are not often made available to these people.

When they are, drug companies milk a lot of publicity from them. This is not to say that they do not make huge differences to people’s lives. Onchoceriasis, also known as river blindness, was a disease that made everyone in Fougadougou, Mali, blind. Now Merek and Co. distribute a drug in this village that prevents onchoceriasis . This has given Fougadougou new life (British Broadcasting Corporation, 2006).

A personal example
Millions of people in the South are affected by AIDS and HIV. I know one of them. She is a girl whom I will call Juanita*. Juanita is barely ten years old and she has recently developed AIDS. She is a bright girl, who is ahead of the other girls in her class, despite having to take lots of time off school due to her condition. She is an affectionate girl who loves playing with dolls. She probably won’t have a 15th birthday. This girl comes from Peru, where the generic drugs that the big Pharma demonise cost about one US dollar a day. This is too expensive for many people in Peru. AIDS drugs made by the big Pharma, with their patents, cost tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Drug companies say that cheap drugs in the South will cut their profits. That is not true. Drug companies are not going to profit from poor people who often earn a fraction of what the drugs they need cost each year (Legrain, 2002). Drug companies provide drugs that often save lives, but that purpose seems to be in second place to making money, and agreements such as the TRIPS ones are encouraging this trend.
hands holding pills
So what is the answer?
Some people say the answer to the problem is greater regulation, (Angell, 2004) and others think that drug companies should be owned by governments, who can be voted out when they do not what is best for the voters. Drug companies are controversial at the moment. Award winning books have been written about their mistakes and an Oscar winning film has been made about the corruption that exists within them. If they are to improve the health of the world’s people, something needs to change.

* Her real name is not Juanita. I have changed it out of respect for her privacy.



Angell, Marcia (2004) The truth about the drug companies : how they deceive us and what to do about it New York: Random House

Marcia Angell is a doctor who thinks that drug companies need saving from themselves. Her argument is very persuasive, and her insider status in the medical profession is valuable.

Legrain, Philippe (2002) Open World:/ The Truth About Globalisation London: Abacus

Philippe LeGrain has written a book defending free trade. I do not agree with much of what he writes, but the chapter that he is written on the drugs industry (Patently Wrong) disagrees with the TRIPS agreement and sets out a number of reasons why TRIPS is not only immoral but anti free trade’.

Robinson, Jeffrey (2001) Prescription games : money, ego and power inside the global pharmaceutical industry London : Simon & Schuster

Jeffery Robinson’s book is an attack on Big Pharma, and is easy to read. It makes for compelling and chilling reading. Warning: it might make you get quite angry!


Atwood, Margaret (2003) Oryx and Crake London: Bloomsbury

Margaret Atwood is a prizewinning author. Oryx and Crake is a book about what happens when drug companies have too much power and are not regulated. Although this book is set in the future, it touches on many of the ethical problems that the world currently faces with drug companies.

Le Carre, John (2002) The Constant Gardiner London: Sceptre

This book is a murder mystery that ends up being related to corrupt drug companies testing their drugs on unsuspecting people in Africa. In the course of these tests, many people die. An award-winning movie has been made of this book, which Roger Ebert has called the movie of the year for 2005 (I have not seen it).

Other Cited Resources:

British Broadcasting Corporation Miracle Village

This photo journal is about the village of Fougadougou the problems with Onchoceriasis and how the village has changed with the arrival of a preventative drug.

Davis, Michael Biological Diversity and Indigenous Knowledge Research Paper 17 1997-98
This is about how patents on natural substances impact badly on indigenous peoples.

United Nations (1948) “Universal Declaration on Human Rights”

New Internationalist Issue on Big Pharma, Issue 32 in November 2003


  • Yuck, No Thanks in Big Pharma, New Internationalist, has some really ideas about taking action globally.
  • New Zealand is a very small slice of the Big Pharma market, and compared to other countries, we have easy access to the drugs we need. The government subsidises many high cost drugs and people on low incomes can get their prescriptions for reduced prices. However, there are some drugs that are still not sold in New Zealand due to the regulation industry, Pharmac, not allowing them to be sold or subsidised. Lobbying of Pharmac might give some people access to the drugs that can save their lives.
  • Advertising for drugs is currently legal in New Zealand. Now I have nothing against Jude Dobson, but I think that it is a real shame that Drug companies can advertise their products under the pretense of educating people. Maybe you can write a letter to the Health minister calling for the abolishment of advertising by drug companies.
  • Find some isolated areas where injustice is happening in relation to this area. Then talk to the media, find the drug that will help the people and lobby the company(ies) that supply it. If anything happens, it will not change the roots of the injustice, but it will change the lives of some people.


Thursday, February 16th, 2006

Eva Lawrence

All the time we hear about global pandemics like Bird Flu. We’re always told that we are at risk, but never given the guts of it… Like for instance, HIV/AIDS. What does it mean for me, an average young person living in Aotearoa New Zealand? Why should I care? It’s a scary thing that exists on the other side of the world and we’d rather ignore it right? Wrong.

Currently, about 40 million people live with HIV/AIDS worldwide. 12 000 people are infected with HIV every day

In 2003 there were 188 new diagnoses of HIV reported in Aotearoa New Zealand, the highest ever! The figures for 2005 are likely to be higher. Latest stats show that the rate of new HIV infections among gay/bi men in New Zealand alone was one every four days! In the past five years in Aotearoa New Zealand, the rate of heterosexuals diagnosed with HIV infection is equal to homosexuals diagnosed (NZAF). This means that HIV is an issue for all of us, whether you are gay, bi or straight.

AIDS is the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide. Young people, mostly young women, make up nearly half of the new cases of HIV infections worldwide — one every 14 seconds.

Young people are the group most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and we are also the window of hope’ — we’re the ones who can stop the spread and turn the pandemic around.

Are we at risk?
While HIV may seem far away from life here in Aotearoa New Zealand, the disease may have a big impact here in the next few years. The rates of HIV in Papua New Guinea are the same as the rates were in South Africa in 1990 — just before the epidemic. The Pacific region (of which we are a part) is vulnerable, like Africa.

Don’t believe me? Aotearoa New Zealand holds the not-so-glorious title of having some of the highest rates of Chlamydia and teen pregnancy in the developed world… which means we are at risk of HIV. Having an STI can make you ten times more vulnerable to HIV because the existing STI makes it easier for HIV to gain hold in your body. And of course, both the high STI and teen pregnancy rates mean a lot of unprotected sex is goin on.

What is it?
HIV stands for the “Human Immunodeficiency Virus”. HIV infects cells of the immune system, and destroys or impairs their function. When an immune system is deficient it can no longer fight off infection and disease. AIDS stands for “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome”. The term AIDS applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection. For people with AIDS, infections are often severe and sometimes fatal because the immune system is so damaged.

What are the causes of HIV/AIDS?
The HIV virus is transmitted through body fluids such as blood and semen, and occasionally breast milk. HIV is generally transmitted through sexual intercourse, intravenously (through needles) and from mother to child.

While these are the technical ways to get HIV, they are not the only factors that make people vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Here are some underlying causes of HIV transmission and vulnerability.

95 out of every hundred people with HIV live in the developing world. Poverty makes people more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and in turn, the virus leads to an increase in poverty. Poverty also leads people to unsafe practices such as prostitution. Poverty exists in the Pacific and here too.

While poverty is not a major contributor in Aotearoa New Zealand at the present, global pandemics affect poor people more than wealthy due to issues such as access to health care and resources. Regardless of this, whether you are rich or poor, you are still vulnerable to HIV.

Gender inequality
Women are more vulnerable to infection than men as they often don’t have control over if, how and with who they have sex. Teenage girls in some African countries are six times more likely to be infected with HIV than are boys of the same age (UNFPA).

Child Abuse and Rape
Children are often infected with HIV through sexual abuse. Some adult men are seeking young female partners (under 15) in an attempt to avoid HIV infection. Coerced sex including rape, increases risk of cuts to the vagina and anus and therefore of HIV infection.

People are still ignorant about HIV. A recent survey in 17 countries around the world showed that over half the youth questioned couldn’t name any methods to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS (UNFPA). Furthermore, almost half of 15 to 19 year old girls questioned in sub-Saharan Africa, didn’t know that a healthy looking person can have HIV/AIDS (youthandhiv.org).

Mobile populations
The movement of people within and between countries has led to the spread of HIV. In many countries men will work temporarily in the cities, at sea or for the armed forces, contract HIV and then return to their communities and unwittingly spread it.

People traveling on holiday also catch or spread HIV with local populations and other travelers through sex and intravenous drug use. Sex tourism is a major factor in HIV/AIDS spread in countries such as Cambodia.

Myths and Stigma
Inaccurate ideas about HIV/AIDS contribute to unsafe behaviour. Many young women in Africa have caught HIV due to the mistaken belief that infected men can cure’ themselves through sex with a virgin.

The stigma attached to HIV/AIDS often leads to exclusion and violence towards those infected. The fear of stigma means people get tested. Negative attitudes about the use of condoms also increase infection.

A major myth in NZ is that only gay men get HIV. As you can see from the statements above, it is increasingly becoming a heterosexual issue.

Silence is perhaps the biggest killer. HIV/AIDS is associated with sex and drugs and death. These are all things people don’t like to talk about. Silence and inaction has led to the pandemic that the world now faces. Only the breaking of the silence and concerted action will turn it around.


  • Wear a red ribbon to show you care about the issue, especially on World Aids Day - the 1st of December
  • Combat world poverty — join the Make Poverty History Campaign
  • Always. Use. A. Condom… got the message?
  • Break the silence — ask questions and challenge the stereotypes around HIV/AIDS


New Zealand AIDS Foundation
Family Planning Association
The Global Education Centre

This article was originally published in Jet Magazine’s World View column and is published here with their permission. Images courtesy of Save The Children.