International AIDS Conference in Thailand To Focus on Increasing Access to Antiretroviral Drugs
The XV International AIDS Conference scheduled for July in Bangkok, Thailand, will focus on mobilizing "political will" to roll out antiretroviral drug programs in developing countries, a conference organizer said on Monday, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/22). The conference is organized by the International AIDS Society and the Thai Ministry of Public Health as the local host, along with co-organizers UNAIDS, the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, International Council of AIDS Service Organizations, and the Thai NGO Coalition on AIDS (XV International AIDS Conference Web site, 3/22). Dr. Gustaaf Wolvaart, a senior conference advisor, said that scientific breakthroughs have led to effective and affordable treatments and many of the monetary restrictions have been addressed through generic drug production, price cuts and subsidy programs, according to the AP/San Jose Mercury News. He added, "Now the issue is going to be how to mobilize the political will to roll these things out" (Peck, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 3/22).
Conference To Bring Attention to Asia
The conference, themed "Access for All," also is expected to highlight Thailand's success in fighting AIDS. "What we have seen in Thailand is the appropriate steps to control the epidemic while it is still at a preventable, manageable size instead of chasing a runaway train," Wolvaart said, adding, "If you compare where Thailand was in 1990 compared to a lot of south African countries, there were exactly the same rates ... 15 years later Thailand has one million people HIV positive while the same size countries in Africa now have 15-20 million people" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/22). Conference organizers hope that holding the conference in Bangkok will bring attention to the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in Asia, which accounts for approximately 25% of the world's new HIV cases (Schuettler, Reuters, 3/22). Conference participants also are expected to address the need for additional funds to fight the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, the danger that complacency about disease poses to prevention programs and the role of religious groups in fighting the disease, Wolvaart said, according to the AP/News (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 3/22). Up to 20,000 people are expected to attend the six-day, $15 million conference, which could be the "largest yet" medical meeting on HIV/AIDS, Wolvaart said, according to AFP/Yahoo! News (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/22).
Webcasts and other coverage of the XV International AIDS Conference will be available online at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/aids2004.