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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, July 16, 2024


During an Internet roundtable discussion with experts attending the International AIDS Conference in South Africa, V.I. Delegate to Congress Donna Christian Christensen called on pharmaceutical companies to provide treatment for AIDS to Africans living with the disease.
Christensen, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust and a family physician, participated in the discussion by telephone before returning to the Virgin Islands. She was joined by the Center for Disease Control's Dr. Helene Gayle, director of the National Center for HIV/STD/TB Prevention at the CDC, and Dr. David Holtgrave, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention-Intervention Research and Support.
"One of the positions taken by some of the pharmaceutical companies in previous meetings in Washington is that the infrastructure of poor countries cannot provide the necessary support for patients who require long term access to AIDS drugs," Christensen said.
But she noted a recent New York Times article that said many infected Africans are seeking out multiple drug-treatment trials now available to them.
"What this shows is that people everywhere do value life over death and given the proper resources and opportunity for longer and greater life value, people will respond to treatment," Christensen said.
She noted that it is still important, however, to find ways to improve the overall health care delivery system in the U.S. and around the world.
"As long as a community's health delivery system is not working, a vaccine that's available may still be ineffective," Christensen said.
As chairwoman of the CBC’s Health Braintrust, Christensen oversees the implementation of national policy on health issues affecting communities of color, particularly to eliminate disparities in health care delivery.
Her efforts include programs to address the threatening AIDS epidemic in the Virgin Islands and throughout the Caribbean. Christensen will travel around the Caribbean with Sandy Thurman, director of National AIDS Policy, later this year to reinforce the region's need for federal assistance in addressing the health crisis.
The International AIDS Conference, which began July 8, ends Friday.

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