BRICS countries vow to help poor nations in health

July 11, 2011 - 8:14 AM

BEIJING (AP) — The world's top emerging countries banded together Monday to help fight diseases in the poorest countries, pledging to transfer technologies to the developing world to help supply cheap and effective drugs.

Health ministers from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — the so-called BRICS countries — meeting in Beijing said their collaboration would help strengthen health systems and increase access to affordable medicines for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis.

South African Health Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi said the BRICS countries could influence global attitudes on access to cheap medicine in the developing world. BRICS countries account for 40 percent of the world's population.

"For my country it is absolutely essential, as we know most of the developing world is in sub-Saharan Africa, which is unfortunately the theater of the battle against communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria," Motsoaledi said on the sidelines of the meeting.

"It is within BRICS countries that most of the affordable drugs are found to supply the developing world. So we think the partnership is strong enough to be able to influence events around the world," he said.

It was the first ministerial-level meeting of health officials from the emerging countries' bloc, and the countries said they would collaborate with international health organizations such as the World Health Organization and UNAIDS to increase access to affordable, safe and effective medicines and vaccines.

The group is willing to play a larger role in financing global health efforts, but not as a replacement for the support of richer nations, said Brazilian Health Minister Alexandre Padilha.

The health meeting comes after leaders of the five countries held a one-day summit in the southern Chinese resort of Sanya in April at which they said they wanted a stronger voice in the international financial order.

Though largely an ad-hoc grouping at present, the BRICS have the potential to emerge as a new force in world affairs on the back of their massive share of global population and economic growth. With the inclusion of South Africa this year, the group accounts for 40 percent of the world's people, 18 percent of global trade and about 45 percent of current growth, giving them formidable heft when dealing with the developed economies.