For all those months, since I last wrote here, I've been wondering how could I merge my background in drug policies and addiction treatment studies with my new goal of learning and engaging into the international cooperation field. Focus myself into Global Health would be the obvious choice. And at this moment it seems the most reasonable path. After all, it's relatively easy to quit medical practice but it's not that easy to delete nearly 16 years of medical learning and practice from a CV. The difficult thing is to try to find a common ground between the old and the new and still looks coherent. That has been my challenge.
I'm not quite ready to quit the idea of focusing my studies on governance, participatory democracy, international migration and refugees (my new passion?!), but at least to make a smooth transition, specially for this blog, I'll start writing and posting things that I consider the link between my past and my future. Soon I'll be changing the name of this blog, because I'll no longer be talking exclusively about drugs.
So, here I go with a not so new, but interesting thing that I found out about Brazilian international technical cooperation with African countries. Development cooperation is all about Africa (at least here in Belgium) and they only talk about Brazil to give successful development examples like the conditioned cash transfer program (Bolsa Familia), participatory budgeting (orçamento participativo), and the HIV/AIDS treatment. All three are now extensively evaluated, and despite some criticism (they always have), they are indeed successful stories (which is rare in development practices), that are being exported elsewhere. Even Belgium has adopted the participatory budgeting following the Brazilian way.
Brazil is also frequently cited as a new actor in development cooperation. Along with other emerging countries like China, India and South Africa, Brazil is starting many cooperation projects around the world. Besides other Latin America countries, Africa has been a privileged partner in technology transfer and capacity building. In the health field Brazil has recently started a cooperation with Mozambique to build a pharmaceutical industry to produce HIV medicine. The project is being implemented in cooperation with Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (FIOCRUZ), the main public laboratory producing drugs for the Brazilian Health System. By 2012 essential medicines will start to be produced locally and help diminishing Mozambique dependence on "donated" medicines from international aid.
The importance of this project rests on the technology transfer, and the success will depend heavily on how the Mozambican government will absorb and use the knowledge and keeps the medicine production running after the technical assistance leaves. As for the impact on HIV/AIDS treatment another variable will have to be taken into account. Does the government has a health system that provides universal access to the HIV population? And will this system be able to provide HIV medication for those in need, for free? Looking at the Brazilian experience, we have learned that breaking the patent and producing HIV medication sur place was a breakthrough, but it would not be sufficient without the other components of the health policy that were implemented early on the HIV epidemic.
If you want to learn more about this subject here are some useful links:
Brasil doará equipamentos para instalações de fábrica de medicamentos para a Aids na África
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil – Brazilian Agency for Cooperation – ABC
Brazil - Ministry of Health - HIV/ AIDS
UNAIDS - Brazil