Public Health Leaders Create ‘Blueprint’ for Treating AIDS in Africa
World public health leaders, including economists, scientists, AIDS physicians and policymakers, have designed a "blueprint" to treat people with HIV/AIDS in the African nations hit hardest by the disease, the Boston Globe reports. The plan, developed last week in "side sessions" at the 8th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Chicago and in a private meeting of AIDS doctors and economists on Friday at Harvard University, calls on wealthy countries to cover the cost of antiAIDS drugs for the developing world. The likely U.S. share would be approximately $3 billion per year. The blueprint also calls for the negotiation of the price of antiretroviral drug combinations down to $500 a year per patient; the selection of two successful African countries and more than a dozen small projects as models to be swiftly copied across the continent; the initial targeting of individuals with symptomatic AIDS, 10% of the 25 million HIV-infected people in Africa; and the "piggybacking" of HIV treatment onto existing tuberculosis-control programs. Plan critics note that most African nations lack the health infrastructures needed to successfully distribute medication to those in need and express concerns that such a program could promote drug-resistant strains of HIV. Furthermore, skeptics add that obtaining funding from the Bush administration could prove difficult. But plan supporters believe their cause will be assisted by "growing public awareness in the West of the scope and crisis as well as by a perception by policymakers that the epidemic is becoming a potential threat to national security." Organizers are aiming to present the plan before an April AIDS summit held by African leaders and a meeting of the G7 industrialized countries this summer in Italy. Stephen Lewis, senior adviser to UNAIDS, said, "Their timing is perfect. If it can be crystallized -- concretely, realistically, and sealed in tough negotiations with wealthy nations -- then they can have a major impact" (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 2/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.