Debate Over Funding for Treatment, Prevention to Be ‘Centerpiece’ of XIV International AIDS Conference
The debate over how to divide funds between prevention and treatment efforts will be the "centerpiece" of the XIV International AIDS Conference that begins on Sunday in Barcelona, the Wall Street Journal reports. While those favoring prevention programs and those favoring treatment programs agree that the $2 billion in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is "paltry," the "clash" between the two groups will "profoundly affect" the distribution of the funds. At next week's conference, treatment advocates, doctors and people with HIV/AIDS plan to present research supporting funding for HIV/AIDS treatment programs and stage "massive" protests, the Journal reports. Treatment Action Campaign Chair Zackie Achmat said those treatment advocates also are planning a "new pan-African treatment movement, demanding everything from vitamins to antiretrovirals."
Prevention Has 'Long-Term Impact'
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's new HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis prevention taskforce, which is focused "almost solely" on prevention, also will "tak[e] center stage" at the conference, the Journal reports. The group, led by AIDS prevention expert Dr. Helene Gayle, advocates HIV/AIDS prevention through condom use, voluntary HIV testing, behavioral changes, needle-exchange programs and research of microbicides and HIV vaccines. The taskforce focuses on prevention "because it has the best long-term impact," according to Gayle. "It's relatively simple to say dollar for dollar that prevention is more cost effective," AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition Director Chris Collins said, adding, "The more complex point is what happens in societies where one in five or one in three people in the professional class are wiped out."
Although the South African government has focused almost exclusively on prevention, the HIV infection rate there has continued to rise, according to Achmat, who advocates a Medicins San Frontieres program that links prevention and treatment to fight HIV/AIDS. But economists say that such programs are "expensive" and "take many years" to implement. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies are "relieved" that the debate over prevention and treatment efforts has "shift[ed] focus" away from the debate over the high cost of AIDS drugs, the Journal reports (Zimmerman/Schoofs, Wall Street Journal, 7/3).