‘Striking Contrast’ Among Countries Regarding Antiretroviral Drugs Must ‘Change Quickly,’ NEJM Opinion Piece Says
The "single message" at the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, was that the "striking contrast" between the countries where people are dying from AIDS-related causes and the countries where people are receiving effective HIV/AIDS treatment needs to "change quickly," Dr. Robert Steinbrook writes in a opinion piece in today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot said at the conference that treatment is "technically feasible" in all parts of the world but that "political will" stands in the way of many HIV-positive people receiving antiretroviral drugs. Although $10 billion per year is required for a "minimum credible response" to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, world governments, foundations and businesses currently provide less than a third of that amount, according to Piot. Former President Clinton said at the conference that the world's wealthy nations should determine what percentage of the $10 billion they should pay and "should pay it." According to Steinbrook, the Bush administration has requested about $16 billion for domestic and international HIV/AIDS programs in 2003. In addition, he says that the number of people worldwide who are receiving antiretroviral therapy should "increase substantially" now that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has begun raising and distributing funds to AIDS organizations. By the start of the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, in July 2004, "it will be clear whether or not millions of people are receiving effective treatments for HIV infection," Steinbrook concludes (Steinbrook, New England Journal of Medicine, 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.