U.N. Advisory Panel Says Antiretroviral Drugs Alone Are Not the Answer to Halting HIV/AIDS
Antiretroviral drugs that are offered to developing nations through the United Nations' Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria "will be wasted" unless they are combined with HIV prevention strategies and efforts to strengthen the health care infrastructure of poor countries, an advisory panel to the United Nations stated during a meeting this week. The panel, which consists of more than 80 medical researchers and public health officials from the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa, will advise the United Nations on how to spend the AIDS, TB and malaria fund, which currently stands at $1.5 billion (Roylance, Baltimore Sun, 11/1). The panel met Oct. 30-31 in a conference hosted by the Johns Hopkins University Center for AIDS Research. The goal of the meeting was to develop a blueprint for controlling AIDS and other infectious diseases and to determine "the most feasible and cost-effective strategies" for the U.N. health fund (Johns Hopkins release, 10/29). Dr. John Bartlett, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for AIDS Research, said that although antiretroviral drugs are "needed," the United Nations "can't just dump therapy" on developing countries. Dr. Ronald Gray, a professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, added, "Our experience in Europe and North America is that the availability of [antiretroviral] drugs ... has increased risky behavior. We have to prevent that from occurring in the developing world, or we could see the epidemic getting worse as a result." Later this month, the panel will present a report to the U.N. fund that supports AIDS prevention programs and encourages voluntary HIV testing. In addition, the panel recommended that developing countries receive assistance to train health workers, prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, treat opportunistic infections, provide care for dying patients and conduct studies measuring patient outcomes. Although the panel's recommendations are not binding, the Sun reports that they are "expected to be influential" (Baltimore Sun, 11/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.