New International Coalition To Promote HIV/AIDS Treatment Access Launched
A group of more than 50 nongovernmental organizations, international organizations, governments, donors, people living with HIV/AIDS, private sector organizations and research institutions yesterday launched the International HIV Treatment Access Coalition, a new initiative created to promote increased access to antiretroviral drugs and to advise developing countries on how to most effectively use the drugs, the Boston Globe reports (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 12/13). Coalition members will "augment ... partners' efforts to increase affordability, availability and uptake of HIV treatments," according to the ITAC Web site. Specific priorities range from pharmaceutical goals -- such as quality control for drug manufacturing and advocating lower drug prices -- to policy and oversight functions, such as assisting governments with starting new programs to fight HIV/AIDS and monitoring and evaluating existing programs (ITAC Web site, 12/12). The World Health Organization has set a goal of treating three million people with HIV/AIDS in developing countries by the end of 2005. Currently, about 300,000 people in such countries are receiving antiretroviral treatment, and one-third of those people are in Brazil (Boston Globe, 12/13). WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland said that a main goal of the coalition is to help people living with HIV/AIDS access antiretroviral drugs that can treat the disease so that no one "is sentenced to certain death because she or he cannot access care" (WHO release, 12/12).
Coming Together for Action
International AIDS Society President Dr. Joep Lange said, "If we want to scale up to the millions, we need a focused, concerted action on a global level. ... It's not the beginning of another large organization. It is a mechanism for bringing partners together." Lange added that current efforts to bring antiretroviral drugs to people in developing countries are disjointed. "Everyone is doing their little bit. We don't even know what others are doing. ... We need to streamline treatment models," he said (Boston Globe, 12/13). Of the 3.1 million AIDS-related deaths this year, about 99% of the people who died lived in low- or middle-income countries, and WHO officials estimate that only 5% of the patients who need antiretroviral drugs are currently using them (WHO release, 12/12). Bernhard Schwartlander, director of the WHO HIV/AIDS program, said that the coalition will not distribute funds, but will assist countries and regional groups in establishing treatment programs that could then apply for grant funds from donors, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Once the programs start, Schwartlander said that ITAC could send experts to advise the programs' operations (Boston Globe, 12/13). ITAC is currently led by an interim steering committee made up of representatives of developing countries (Brazil, Uganda, and Thailand), bilateral donors, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, nongovernmental organizations (the Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, the African Council of AIDS Service Organizations, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and the International AIDS Society), and international organizations such as the UNAIDS Secretariat, the World Bank and WHO (ITAC Web site, 12/12). Other members include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the William J. Clinton Foundation, UNICEF and the U.N. Development Programme (Boston Globe, 12/13).