United Nations To Hold One-Day Session Focusing on HIV/AIDS; Annan Urges WTO Compromise on Drug Access
The United Nations plans to hold a one-day session on Sept. 22 to focus on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in an effort to increase funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced on Wednesday at a press conference, the Associated Press reports. Approximately six million people worldwide die each year from the three diseases, and about 348 million people are affected by the diseases, a threat Annan said the United Nations "cannot afford to ignore." Annan said that Africa has been hardest hit by HIV/AIDS but that the disease is spreading "very fast" in Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean. "It is truly a global crisis," Annan added. Annan said that the Global Fund "needs to spend $3 billion next year, and the current pledges are well short of that." In its first 18 months of operation, the fund has approved grants worth $1.5 billion over five years to more than 150 projects in 92 countries (Ngowi, Associated Press, 7/30). President Bush in May signed a measure (HR 1298) authorizing $15 billion over five years for international HIV/AIDS programs, with up to $1 billion in fiscal year 2004 going to the Global Fund. However, the amount of funding actually appropriated to the fund may be less than $1 billion and is contingent upon the contributions of other countries. Under the measure, the United States can contribute up to $1 billion to the fund only if that amount totals no more than one-third of the fund's total contributions. Therefore, in order for the total $1 billion to be appropriated, other nations must contribute more money (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/15).
Generic Drug Access
Annan said that the World Trade Organization's September ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, will provide an opportunity for the WTO to resolve intellectual property conflicts concerning generic drug access, according to Xinhua News Agency (Xinhua News Agency, 7/30). WTO talks over generic drug access have been stalled since members missed a Dec. 31, 2002, deadline to reach an agreement. U.S. negotiators in February refused to sign a deal under the Doha declaration to allow developing nations to override patent protections to produce or import generic versions of drugs to combat public health epidemics, including HIV/AIDS, unless wording was included to specify which diseases constitute a public health epidemic. However, the United States in June made a concession by dropping its demand that the agreement apply only to a specified list of diseases (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/29). At a WTO meeting that ended Wednesday in Montreal, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said he would "make [his] best efforts" to come to a compromise on the Doha declaration before the WTO's September meeting, adding that he is hopeful, according to the National Post. European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy said that a deal on generic drugs would have to be reached. "We are all walking on eggs on an issue that will have to be solved before Cancun," Lamy said, adding, "We know if it is not solved it is a very bad omen" (Jack, National Post, 7/31). Annan said, "We must reach an agreement allowing those developing countries that cannot produce cheap generic drugs themselves to import them from other countries that can" (Xinhua News Agency, 7/30).