Canada Announces Doubling of Global Fund Pledge, Domestic AIDS Spending; Bono Lauds Efforts
The Canadian government on Wednesday announced a doubling in spending for domestic HIV/AIDS programs and a doubling of its pledge to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Toronto Star reports (Gordon, Toronto Star, 5/13). Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew announced that the government plans to double its budget for domestic HIV/AIDS programs to about $60 million annually over the next five years. The funding will go toward community-based AIDS prevention programs and research and education, Pettigrew said (Canadian Press, 5/12). The announcement came the same day that Prime Minister Paul Martin announced that the country will double its contribution to the Global Fund to more than $50 million for fiscal year 2005-2006 and two days after Martin announced a $72 million contribution to the World Health Organization's 3 by 5 Initiative, which aims to treat three million people in the developing world with antiretroviral drugs by 2005 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/12).
Martin appeared with Irish rock star Bono, who founded the debt, AIDS and trade organization DATA, to announce the Global Fund increase (New York Times, 5/13). Bono said that Martin's three-part AIDS package -- including the funding increases for the Global Fund and WHO intiative and the expected passage this week of a bill (C-9) to allow the export of generic drugs to developing countries -- is "clever money" that will help build the health capacities of developing countries (Toronto Star, 5/13). Martin at a press conference said that Bono has a "unique ... capacity to awaken the world" to the HIV/AIDS crisis (AP/Long Island Newsday, 5/13). U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis, who is Canadian, said that the measures "taken all in all, put Canada in the forefront of the battle against AIDS" (Cheadle, CP/Canada.com, 5/12). When asked whether his appearance with Martin was meant to support the prime minister in the country's expected upcoming elections, Bono responded, "That's my job here -- to provide applause when somebody does the right and courageous thing and to provide criticism when they don't." He added, "The price that we're talking about here are lives -- hundreds of thousands of lives -- these Canadian dollars are going to [create] change" (Dawson, CanWest News/National Post, 5/13). Bono also agreed to conduct an interview with CNN International in an effort to "pressure European leaders to follow Canada's lead," according to Toronto's Globe and Mail (Fagan , Globe and Mail, 5/13). Pettigrew this weekend at the annual WHO meeting in Geneva is expected to begin lobbying Great Britain and several other countries -- including Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany -- to increase their pledges to both the 3 by 5 Initiative and the Global Fund. "Now our major task is to convince others to also go forward," International Cooperation Minister Aileen Carroll said (Fagan , Globe and Mail, 5/13).
The Canadian Senate this week is expected to approve C-9, which would amend the country's patent laws to permit the government to order the override of patents to allow certain pharmaceutical manufacturers to produce and export generic drugs -- including antiretroviral drugs -- for use in developing countries (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/12). However, many people "clos[e] to the issue" say that there is "no guarantee the bill will soon result in significant cheap drug shipments to Africa" and other regions, according to the Globe and Mail. The bill has some features "that are making it less attractive for us," Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association President Jim Keon said, adding, "Any one of them is not necessarily a killer, but taken together they just add up to disincentives for a company to use the system." Keon said that a provision allowing patent holders to file lawsuits against generic companies who fill supply contracts deemed too commercial could leave the generic firms open to "legal harassment." Other critics say that the bill's potential is limited by a provision restricting the number of drugs included under the legislation to 56 products, most of which are used to treat HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. The list excludes three antiretroviral drug combinations that WHO recommends for use in developing countries, the Globe and Mail reports. Although the government is establishing an advisory committee to consider adding medicines, many in the Liberal party have rejected proposed additions, according to the Globe and Mail. In addition, many people have raised doubts about whether the country's generic industry can produce drugs at a low enough cost to win contracts with developing countries, according to the Globe and Mail (Chase, Globe and Mail, 5/13).