HHS Secretary Thompson Optimistic About African Efforts To Fight HIV/AIDS But Says More Needs To Be DoneHHS Secretary Tommy Thompson -- who recently concluded a tour of four African nations with a U.S. delegation of 80 lawmakers, business leaders and religious groups -- on Sunday gave an "upbeat assessment" of efforts in Africa to combat HIV/AIDS but said that a "great deal still needs to be done," the Associated Press reports (Wessel, Associated Press, 12/7). "From what we have learned there is no question in my mind that those resources are going to come and come very fast. We expect to make tremendous progress in that direction in 12 to 18 months. ... This trip has been a 10 on a scale of one to 10, everyone has come away with a new perspective on the problem," Thompson said after visiting Botswana, Zambia, Kenya and Uganda (Busharizi, Reuters/Boston Globe, 12/7). The U.S. delegation included Randall Tobias, head of the new State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, and Richard Holbrooke, president of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The delegation also included UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot, Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Executive Director Richard Feachem, CDC Director Julie Gerberding, NIH Director Elias Zerhouni and NIAID Director Anthony Fauci (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/5).
Feachem said that despite the "massive investment" needed in African countries to deliver antiretroviral drugs, "there is a great potential to scale up [their] availability" (Reuters/Boston Globe, 12/7). Gerberding said, "Africans are ready, willing and able to fight AIDS -- they just need more help from developed nations" (Associated Press, 12/7). Thompson said that he does not plan to remain in his current position after the 2004 presidential election, adding that he plans to "leave his mark" in efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Thompson said that his trips to Africa -- including last week's trip and one in the mid-1990s -- "changed my outlook ... and the need for me personally to do some more." World Health Organization Director-General Jong-Wook Lee said that Thompson "will be seen, when you look 20 years down the line, as somebody who saved many millions of lives" (Marchione, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/6).
While in Africa, the delegation visited patients taking part in an antiretroviral drug treatment program in Uganda administered by TASO, an AIDS support organization and clinic, that "could serve as a model for much of th[e] continent," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Programs including TASO's Home Based AIDS Care Project, which is led by former University of California-San Francisco HIV/AIDS specialist Dr. Peter Solberg, could be the "most effective weapons against the epidemic in rural parts of Africa, where there are serious concerns whether the infrastructure of roads, water supplies, medical centers and the people to staff them are sufficient to handle a massive" antiretroviral distribution program, according to the Chronicle (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/7). The complete article is available online.