Tax burden on HIV patients

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A new tax introduced by the newly formed East Africa Customs Union (eacu) will increase the prices of hiv drugs in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, accentuating the sufferings of the most vulnerable people of the region. The eacu has levied a 10 per cent duty on goods imported into the three countries and also on goods exported from Kenya to Uganda and Tanzania. The duty exempts all medicines containing insulin but covers antiretroviral drugs and other essential medication. Experts say medicine prices will rise because pharmaceutical companies will pass the tax burden on to the consumers.

"Most people living with hiv / aids won't be able to cope with this increase,' warns James Kamau, steering committee member of the East African Treatment Access Movement , an advocacy group. "It's not just drugs. We have to import cd 4 count machines and other equipment. How much will we now have to pay for all the monitoring tests?' Kamau wonders. Kenyan patients using the cheapest hiv drugs paid us $20 a month; they will now need to pay us $25. The eacu was formed to liberalise intra-regional trade. The new tax aims to harmonise tariffs.