Sept. 11 Attacks ‘Sidelined’ AIDS in United States, Irish Times Column Says
The Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have "consumed all the attentions" of the United States and its allies and "sidelined" the AIDS epidemic, Irish Times writer Paul Cullen says. But HIV/AIDS, which has affected 65 million people worldwide in the last 20 years, "remains the greatest threat to development in the world," according to UNAIDS Director Peter Piot, who was in Dublin last week, Cullen reports. Although U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan last year said that $7 billion to $10 billion is needed for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, less than $2 billion has been raised so far, with only $2,000 contributed in the three months following Sept. 11. The United States spent the "$2 billion it was expected to contribute" to the fund on financing two months of war in Afghanistan, according to former President Bill Clinton. The availability of HIV/AIDS treatments in Western countries has slowed the disease's progression for many and taken AIDS "off the top of the political agenda," Cullen says. But HIV/AIDS continues to spread in countries where AIDS drugs are not readily available, he adds. According to Piot, "Wider access [to the drugs] will only come about through a major increase in funding internationally." Cullen notes that, "[h]appily," Ireland has a "growing aid budget" and a "thought-out strategy" to support HIV/AIDS programs in "badly affected countries." In addition, prices of AIDS drugs "continue to fall," which could increase access and reduce AIDS-related deaths. Researchers also are "showing greater optimism" about the possibility of a cure and are testing 80 potential vaccines. However, Cullen notes that the world is still "on target" to have $100 million HIV-positive people by 2005, and he cites a December statement by Clinton that the result could be "a bigger threat to peace and security than global terrorism" (Cullen, Irish Times, 1/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.