Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
UNICEF’s AIDS Drug Distribution Offer Raises Praise, Concerns
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy's March 26
New York Times op-ed saying UNICEF could help distribute AIDS drugs in developing nations consistent with its vaccination program triggered several letters of response. Public Health Research Institute Scientific Director David Perlin writes, "At face value, the notion of UNICEF offering to coordinate a plan to treat 25 million HIV-infected people in Africa appears reasonable, given UNICEF's history with vaccine programs on the continent. However, I am disturbed by the use of the word 'distribution.' Treatment programs, unlike vaccines or other single-dose delivery programs, are more complex than simply distributing drugs." He adds, "Merely providing drugs with grass-roots medical support may prove ineffective. Even worse, it may result in the catastrophic development of wide-scale drug resistance that will render these drugs ineffective. UNICEF should be commended for its desire to step forward, but is it really up to this challenge?" (Perlin,
New York Times, 4/2). Nicolas de Torrente, executive director of Doctors Without Borders also wrote in, calling UNICEF's offer "a significant step in the fight against AIDS." The organization "has the expertise to coordinate the bulk purchase and quality certification of AIDS drugs, including generics, and to ensure equitable distribution," he says, adding that the World Health Organization should also assist the effort by advising countries on how to "overcome" patent barriers. However, de Torrente concludes that UNICEF and WHO "are only as strong as their donor and member states make them. Wealthy nations as well as poor countries facing the AIDS pandemic must now step forward to provide both the financial commitment and political will necessary to turn this plan into a reality" (de Torrente, New York Times, 3/31).
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