CAPE TOWN (Xinhua) — The South African government on Friday launched a venture with a Swiss company to manufacture anti- retroviral drugs. The venture is designed to reduce the cost of drugs used to combat HIV/AIDS, South African Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor said.

“This joint venture named Ketlaphela will establish the first pharmaceutical plant to manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for anti-retroviral medicines in South Africa,” Pandor said.

This partnership with Swiss company Lonza would create a thriving biotechnology sector in the country, said the minister. “Ketlaphela will reduce the country’s dependence on imported drugs and will provide security of supply of priority drugs, stable pricing with less sensitivity to exchange.”

Ketlaphela, which means “I will live or survive” in Sesotho, will attract an investment of 1.6 billion rands (about 210 million U.S. dollars). Of the amount, 1.1 billion rands (about 140 million dollars) will come from the South African government, while 500 million rands (about 65 million dollars) from Lonza.

“Ketlaphela will leapfrog South Africa into the 21st century as far as local pharmaceutical manufacturing is concerned, It will provide new opportunities for South African scientists and pharmaceutical companies,” Pandor said. The venture, to be built in Gauteng province, is estimated to create additional 2,200 jobs in the sector.

“These jobs will include direct and indirect jobs in both the formal and informal sector of the economy. An estimated 3, 800 jobs will be created during the construction phase,” Pandor said. Of 22.9 million HIV positive people in sub-Saharan Africa, 5.6 million are South African, according to a recent UNAIDS report. But only 1.6 million HIV positive people in South Africa are on antiretrovirals (ARVs), the report said.

This amounted to only 37 percent of those who should be on treatment, said Catherine Sozi, coordinator of UNAIDS in South Africa. “We need to put another 1.6 million onto treatment by 2015,”she said. Botswana, Namibia and Rwanda have more than 80 percent of their eligible HIV-positive populations on ARVs. In Ethiopia, Kenya, Swaziland and Zambia between 60 percent and 79 percent are on ARVs, according to the report.(Xinhua)


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