Health Activists ‘Cautiously Hopeful’ About World Summit’s Impact on HIV/AIDS, Other Communicable Diseases
Health activists, who are "furious" that more has not been done to prevent deaths associated with communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, "cautiously hope" that next week's World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, will "spark a true war" against these diseases, the AP/Tallahassee Democrat reports. Although world leaders at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, pledged to "tackle diseases of the poor," three million people died from AIDS-related causes last year and millions more died of tuberculosis, malaria and diarrhea in 2000, according to the AP/Tallahassee Democrat. "We are losing six million people every year to AIDS, TB, and malaria alone, 14 million to communicable disease. This is not progress," Rachel Cohen, spokesperson for the medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres, said, adding, "You really have to think twice about whether this health revolution that is being talked about in the West is in any way benefiting the people that need it the most." Although some world campaigns against diseases, such as polio and leprosy, have been "stunning successes," the number of people infected with HIV or tuberculosis "jumped" from 1990 to 2000, and drug-resistant strains of the viruses have begun appearing. In addition, patents on HIV medications have kept the prices of such medications out of reach for many in developing nations. Although the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was created last year to distribute $7 billion to $10 billion annually to fight the diseases, only $2 billion has been pledged to the fund so far. "Sustainable development is great. But if we can't bring AIDS under control, forget about development at all, much less sustainable development," UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said. Health activists can only "continue to make the case that it is not acceptable to let millions of people die," Cohen said (Nessman, AP/Tallahassee Democrat, 8/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.