Southern African Development Community Council of Ministers Seeks Funding To Implement $10.5M AIDS Program
The South African Development Community Council of Ministers over the weekend approved the SADC HIV/AIDS Framework and Program of Action, 2003-2007, and on Sunday announced that the group is seeking $10.5 million to implement the program, Xinhua News Agency reports (Xinhua News Agency, 8/24). The council meeting was part of the 23rd Annual SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government, a meeting of the 14 SADC member states in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which concludes tomorrow (SADC Web site, 8/25). The new framework is aimed at intensifying the fight against HIV/AIDS and addressing the impact of the disease in a more "comprehensive and complementary way," Tanzanian Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete, chair of the council, said, according to Xinhua News Agency. Heads of state and government officials from the member states -- Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe -- last month declared HIV/AIDS a key issue and top priority for SADC. According to SADC statistics, 14 million people in the southern African region are HIV-positive (Xinhua News Agency, 8/24). "Our population is being destroyed. We can forget about development (unless AIDS is dealt with urgently)," Prega Ramsamy, SADC executive secretary and CEO, said (Kanina, Reuters, 8/21).
The SADC ministers hope to reach a consensus during the summit on reducing trade barriers before World Trade Organization talks scheduled for next month, the Associated Press reports (Mwangi, Associated Press, 8/24). 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). Carlos Perez del Castillo, ambassador from Uruguay and chair of the WTO General Council, yesterday distributed copies of a proposed compromise to be considered at the WTO meeting in Cancun, Mexico. However, the proposed compromise offered no agreement on access to generic drugs. Officials said that they are "still hopeful of reaching a deal before the Cancun meeting," according to the Associated Press. Failure to reach an agreement on the issue or on the proposal as a whole by the end of the Cancun meeting could jeopardize the deadline for the current round of talks, which is set for the end of 2004, according to the Associated Press (Koppel, Associated Press, 8/24).