By Matt Douglas-Vail, University of Toronto


For people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, living or dying depends on access to antiretrovirals (ARVs), which is determined largely by pharmaceutical companies.  In order to understand the epidemic, it is important to examine how the pharmaceutical companiesí distribution of ARVs has contributed to and exacerbated the climate of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. This paper aims to examine the ways in which pharmaceutical companies, through the unequal distribution of ARVs, have participated in the implementation of contemporary neo-colonialism and thereby worsened the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Briefly, neo-colonialism is the practice of using multi-national corporations to ensure vulnerability, dependency and maintain control over nations. The importance of ARVs will be examined in conjunction with the official policies on access to medications and the role of structural adjustment programs in exacerbating the epidemic. 

“Roughly one in ten children will suffer from neurological impairment after cerebral malaria, be it epilepsy, learning disability, changes in behaviour, loss of coordination or impairments to speech. As well as being discomforting physically, these problems can also lead to stigmatisation in the community and can reduce individuals’ capacity for work, imposing an additional economic burden.”