Cameroon: Doctor brings Chinese AIDS fighting experience to Africa

Working at a Chinese pharmaceutical company over the past two years, Martin Kuete, from Cameroon, has gained a clearer view about how to help African people better fight against HIV/AIDS.

In 2013, he signed up for a program to study in China. Co-sponsored by UNESCO and the Chinese government, the program offered fellowships to 25 applicants from developing countries to study in Chinese universities.

"China has a large population, but its HIV infection rate is one of the lowest in the world," he said explaining why he wanted to learn more about the HIV control measures of China.

He entered Huazhong University of Science and Technology, pursuing his Ph.D. After three years of study, he joined Anhui Biochem United Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., which specializes in producing anti-HIV/AIDS drugs and anti-HBV medicines.

The work experience gave Kuete more insight into China's fight against AIDS.

"The Chinese government offers financial support as well as free screenings and drugs to people with HIV, which makes people more willing to go and get tested," said Kuete.

He said the high public awareness of AIDS prevention and well-rounded pandemic and epidemic surveillance systems are key to China's low infection rate.

Kuete said in most African countries, the supply of drugs is far lower than the real demand. He hopes to help African companies gain the technology to produce AIDS medicine on their own.

Wang Zhe, deputy general manager of Biochem, said 59 percent of the anti-AIDS drug supply used in African countries are imported from the United States, and the remaining 41 percent are generic drugs from India.

"We have already supplied our active pharmaceutical ingredients to some African pharma manufacturers in Ghana and Morocco so that they can produce the medicine," said Wang.

Kuete said he conducts market analysis in order to minimize his company's investment risks in Africa.

As the Chinese firm's business development manager, it is part of Kuete's job to promote the drugs produced by Biochem to African countries, in addition to focusing on developing new drugs.

"The price of Biochem drugs is one-eighth that from Western countries, making them more affordable in Africa," he said.

This month, he went to his home country of Cameroon to help Biochem drugs gain marketing authorization.

The former obstetrician and gynecologist said the willingness to become an AIDS doctor took root in his mind eight years ago when he was working at a Cameroon hospital. He met a pregnant woman with AIDS. Her baby was born with the disease.

"It was frustrating since there was nothing I could do. Then I decided to do something to make a change," said Kuete, who was then 27 years old. The next year, he took a training course focused on HIV/AIDS.

He said every time he travels back to Cameroon, he takes every opportunity to share his findings from China with local medical students.

"My company helps African countries produce their own anti-AIDS drugs. I believe that's the best way to help Africa fight against AIDS," Kuete said.




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