G7 Nations to Consider Funding Anti-AIDS Drugs in Developing Countries
"Momentum is building" among the Group of Seven major industrial countries to devise and announce a response to the problem of AIDS drug access in developing nations at their July summit in Genoa, Italy, the Wall Street Journal reports. Despite the recent price cuts in antiretroviral drugs offered by several pharmaceutical companies, "relatively few" Africans can afford the drugs without international assistance. Merck's announcement last week that it will slash the price of two of its anti-AIDS drugs "puts more pressure on the G7 to ante up with significant funding," either directly or through the World Bank, to ensure that more HIV-positive Africans receive the drugs. Italy has proposed the establishment of a World Bank-managed trust fund of at least $1 billion, with contributions from governments and private firms, to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, dysentery and other diseases, Italian summit coordinator Francesco Olivieri said. The trust fund would provide drugs, finance vaccine development and construct public health systems. According to Olivieri, "You can't just parachute a bagful of drugs onto a village square in Africa. You have to create first a health system that is sufficiently reliable to control the distribution and the access to this medicine." However, UNAIDS calls for "a much more generous response" of $7 billion to $10 billion from the wealthy nations to "enhance" global treatment and prevention programs. Although U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has discussed the disease with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Bush administration has thus far "given no indication that it would chip in for a huge international drug-purchase plan." The G7 members include the United States, Britain, Italy, Japan, Germany, France and Canada (Phillips/Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, 3/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.