WHO Goal of Providing Antiretrovirals to Three Million by 2005 To Cost $5 Billion; Major Funding Boost NeededUNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot on Wednesday announced that a World Health Organization plan to treat three million people in developing countries with antiretroviral drugs by 2005 will cost $5 billion a year, Reuters reports (Reuters, 9/24). WHO Director-General Dr. Jong-Wook Lee on Monday during a U.N. General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS in New York City announced WHO's renewed commitment to the "three by five" plan and declared the lack of access to antiretroviral drugs a "global health emergency" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/23). WHO plans to announce by Dec. 1 its new strategy, which will use rapid response techniques to deliver antiretroviral treatment and will provide emergency response teams to governments requesting assistance in expediting drug delivery (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/24). Piot, speaking on Wednesday at a press conference at the 13th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa, said that the estimated $5 billion needed for the project is included in existing UNAIDS estimates that the world needs to spend $10.7 billion in 2005 to fight the disease. However, the estimate does not include the cost of creating infrastructure to distribute the drugs, including training medical workers, purchasing equipment and setting up storage and distribution channels.
Paulo Teixeira, director of HIV/AIDS at WHO, said that the key to the program's success lies in using existing clinics and networks, enrolling mass numbers of doctors and nurses in training programs and integrating the community at every level, according to Agence France-Presse. Piot said that experts are currently working to provide an estimate of the cost of building infrastructure. Funding to support the program will have to come from out-of-pocket spending from individuals, rich nations and African countries, Piot said, adding, "The governments from Africa have to do more. Most of them don't have serious budget lines to deal with AIDS and after all it is about national survival" (Ingham, Agence France-Presse, 9/24). Only 5% of the six million HIV-positive people who need antiretroviral drugs in developing countries have access to them, according to WHO (Reuters, 9/24).
More than 100 AIDS advocates from the Pan-African AIDS Treatment Access Movement on Wednesday protested at ICASA, demonstrating in the conference's exhibit hall in front of government, pharmaceutical and donor stands. The protestors demanded immediate action from governments to ensure the implementation of national antiretroviral treatment plans in order to achieve WHO's three by five goal (South African Press Association, 9/25). The advocates demanded that governments in African countries allocate 15% of their national budgets to health spending and implement national treatment plans with clear goals for scaling up access to treatment, according to the Panafrican News Agency. "Governments must get their priorities right. Instead of wasting money on endless wars, unnecessary militaries or salaries for corrupt bureaucracies, poor countries must invest in their own national plans and rich countries [must invest] in the cash-strapped Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria]," Delme Cupido of the AIDS Law Unit in Namibia said (Panafrican News Agency, 9/25). The advocates also disrupted a World Bank news conference on how the AIDS epidemic could be pushing the South African economy to the "brink of collapse," according to Reuters (Macharia, Reuters, 9/24).
UNICEF Somalia Study
Somalia has one of the lowest HIV prevalence rates in sub-Saharan Africa and is uniquely poised to prevent the disease from spreading, according to a UNICEF study presented Wednesday at ICASA. Jesper Morc, a representative of UNICEF's Somalia office, said that Somalia's HIV prevalence rate is between 0.9% and 2.0%, which is considered "manageable," according to Reuters. A widespread AIDS epidemic in the country would be "catastrophic" and could hamper the country's nation building efforts, Morc said, according to Reuters. "It is ... crucial and urgent to put in place a coordinated and strategic early response program to stop the epidemic from spreading," Morc said, adding that UNICEF hopes to conduct a prevalence study in the country within four months. Ongoing conflict, border crossings and internal migration will pose challenges to the efforts, Morc said (Macharia, Reuters, 9/24). ICASA, which concludes on Friday, has brought together about 7,000 scientists, social and political leaders from Africa and other parts of the world to discuss trends in the management of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and to come up with strategies to improve access to care (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/24).