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San Francisco Man's Humanitarian Efforts Help AIDS Patients in Africa

Aired December 25, 2000 - 1:15 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: This Christmas, one man's humanitarian efforts will help people dying of AIDS in Africa, where the cost of drug treatment often exceeds a patient's yearly income.

CNN's Don Knapp has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DON KNAPP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From his cramped, one-bedroom San Francisco apartment, Lee Wildes almost singlehandedly takes on one of the biggest problems in the world: AIDS in Africa.

LEE WILDES, AFRICAN AIDS NETWORK: Through her work, she was able to send us an e-mail saying that she was needing refills.

KNAPP: Refills of AIDS drugs, surplus or leftovers from U.S. clinics or hospitals, or from the survivors of those who died from AIDS.

WILDES: I knew, having been a nurse, that I had thrown away millions and millions of dollars worth of drugs, and that no nurse likes to do it.

KNAPP: Five years ago, after learning he was HIV-positive, Wildes took a vacation in Africa and saw first hand the scale of its AIDS epidemic. When he returned to the United States, he learned new drugs were prolonging lives of those with AIDS and began a personal campaign to get the drugs to Africa.

WILDES: We're not just putting medicine in a box helter-skelter and God hope it gets to the same patient.

KNAPP: Consulting with African doctors by mail, e-mail and telephone, Wildes acts as case manager for 100 patients in six African countries...

WILDES: Forty milligrams a day for three months.

KNAPP: ... carefully filling doctors' prescriptions and documenting the medications. Once a year, he goes to Africa to work in clinics.

WILDES: This man was so confused and disoriented and so sick, I was certain that he wouldn't make it. And right now, he's a metal worker doing heavy steel work, doing work that I couldn't do.

KNAPP: What Wildes is doing is illegal, dispensing drugs without a license, but it's not likely he'll be prosecuted for his humanitarian effort.

(on camera): With more than 25 million Africans infected with the AIDS virus, Wildes' 100 patients may seem like a small success. But it's a success admired by those trying to fight AIDS on a global scale.

RICHARD FEACHAM, UCSF INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL HEALTH: In the face of the enormity and horror of the epidemic, and in the face of such little action, it's very natural that individuals who really care about this problem become motivated and active to try and do something about it.

KNAPP (voice-over): Wildes says he's not only helping a few, but creating a treatment model he hopes will show governments and drug companies what can be done.

Don Knapp, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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