Researchers, Advocates Call for Antiretroviral Drug Access for Developing Countries at Opening of IAS Conference in Paris
At the opening of the International AIDS Society's 2nd Conference on Pathogenesis and Treatment -- this year's largest HIV/AIDS conference -- yesterday in Paris, HIV/AIDS researchers, doctors and advocates called for increased antiretroviral access in developing countries, BBC News reports (Black, BBC News, 7/13). During the opening session of the conference -- which is being attended by more than 5,000 delegates from 120 countries and is hosted by ANRS, France's national AIDS research program -- former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso discussed his country's universal access HIV/AIDS treatment program; HIV/AIDS advocate Marie-Josee Mbuzenakamwe called for treatment for HIV-positive Africans; and economist Jean-Paul Moatti presented an economic rationale for providing antiretroviral treatment in developing countries. Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, IAS President Joep Lange and ANRS Director Michel Kazatchkine, who also chairs the Technical Review Panel of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, opened the conference. Lange said, "All people living with AIDS can be treated, no matter the level of resources in their country. ... It is past time for the politicians to make the resources available, to treat ALL the people" (IAS release, 7/13). Moatti, an economics professor at the University of the Mediterranean in Marseille, France, said that it would be economic "stupidity" not to provide drug treatment to HIV/AIDS patients in developing countries because antiretroviral drug prices have dropped, according to the AP/Boston Globe. Moatti continued, "We have systematically underestimated the impact of AIDS on the economy. It doesn't just kill workers; it kills young adults, and young adults make children and raise children -- human capital. When you take that into the equation, you find a very different impact on the economy" (Ross, AP/Boston Globe, 7/14).
Brazil's Treatment Program
Cardoso, speaking about the success of his country's HIV/AIDS treatment program, said, "Brazil has demonstrated that AIDS is not an intractable problem." He said that Brazil was the first developing country to adopt an official policy of providing antiretroviral drugs at no cost to its citizens, adding, "I believe the most distinctive aspect of Brazil's mobilization against AIDS is the dynamic interplay between citizen initiatives and public policies" (Cardoso speech text, 7/13). Over the past eight years, Brazil has reduced its number of AIDS-related deaths by 50% due to the country's focus on prevention and its distribution of free antiretroviral drugs. Dr. Jong Wook Lee, the newly elected director general of the World Health Organization, has appointed Paulo Teixeira, head of Brazil's HIV/AIDS program, to formulate WHO's AIDS strategy. During the past three years, 31 countries have adopted Brazil's prevention and treatment guidelines (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/10). Cardoso said, "The Brazilian experience confirms that ambiguous and inconsistent messages like those (which) advocate abstinence and fidelity as solutions run the risk of generating a misleading sense of security" (BBC News, 7/13). He added, "The private sector and the scientific community have the duty to exercise social responsibility on a global scale by devising appropriate mechanisms for making life-saving drugs available at viable costs" (Cardoso speech text, 7/13).
Additional information on AIDS in Brazil is available online through the kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on AIDS.
Bush's Global AIDS Initiative
Conference attendees lauded President Bush's global AIDS initiative but expressed some concerns about "key details" of the plan, Agence France-Presse reports. Kazatchkine said, "There's no way we can acknowledge this as anything but an effort of unprecedented magnitude in the history of AIDS. It's wonderful in its magnitude, I wish that Europe and other countries would follow suit." But he added that he was concerned about how the initiative's funds would be administered because there could be "waste or duplication if it were channeled bilaterally," Agence France-Presse reports. Kazatchkine said, "My plea would be for a more multilateral effort." Moatti said that he was concerned that U.S. funding "might come with ties," according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse, 7/13). The House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations on Thursday approved $17.1 billion for fiscal year 2004 foreign assistance, including $1.27 billion to fight AIDS internationally, which is $86 million more than Bush requested and a 40% increase over the amount approved for FY 2003. The subcommittee also substantially restructured the AIDS plan, reducing funds controlled by a newly appointed AIDS coordinator and increasing the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund. In addition, the full House on Thursday approved a bill (HB 6470) to provide funding for labor, education and health programs, including $644 million for foreign AIDS research and prevention and $155 million for combating other infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis. As a result, total funding for global AIDS is now a little more than $2 billion for FY 2004. In a separate action, the Senate approved 78-18 a nonbinding resolution calling for $3 billion in FY 2004 to fight AIDS overseas, even if the amount exceeds the ceiling mandated in Congress's annual budget resolution (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/11).
A webcast of the opening session is available online.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela today spoke at the conference, along with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, who presented a summary titled "Twenty Years of HIV Science." The session, titled "Extraordinary Plenary Session," was chaired by HIV codiscoverers Drs. Robert Gallo of the Institute of Human Virology and Luc Montagnier of the Foundation Mondiale Recherche et Prevention SIDA. French President Jacques Chirac, European Commission President Romano Prodi and Global Fund Director Richard Feachem are scheduled to speak at the closing ceremony on Wednesday night (IAS release, 7/13).
A webcast of today's session is available online.
Additional Sessions To Be Webcast
As the official IAS conference webcaster, kaisernetwork.org will provide webcasts and other resources for all six of the conference plenary sessions, as well as other selected sessions. More information on the conference webcasts is available online at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/paris2003.