Leader’s Summit at XV International AIDS Conference To Focus on Improving Antiretroviral Drug Access
A leader's summit at the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, in July is expected to focus on improving access to antiretroviral drug treatment, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced on Monday, Thailand's Nation reports. The leaders of 13 countries and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan are expected to attend the July 12 summit -- which is the "first of its kind" -- to discuss ways to make antiretroviral drugs more accessible and affordable for HIV-positive people and produce a declaration that "must" be implemented by signatories, according to the Nation (Khwankhom, Nation, 5/24). The leaders of Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Russia and Uganda are expected to attend, Thaksin said, according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse, 5/24). The Thai Health Ministry currently distributes domestically produced antiretroviral drugs to approximately 70,000 HIV-positive people through state hospitals, according to the Bangkok Post. Thai Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said that the country plans to increase its drug production in 2005 to treat approximately 200,000 people, even though it currently has an "oversupply" of the drugs (Bangkok Post, 5/25). Thailand will supply neighboring countries with its extra drugs, Thaksin said, according to the Nation (Nation, 5/24). Bangkok Senator Mechai Viravaidya said that Thailand is the first country to distribute free antiretrovirals to other countries, which could "set the stage" for other countries that domestically produce the drugs to do the same, according to the Post (Bangkok Post, 5/25). Thailand has been able to reduce the price of the drugs from at least $500 per person per month to about $30 per person per month through domestic production, according to the AP/Long Island Newsday (AP/Long Island Newsday, 5/24).
Thaksin said that the leader's summit also will focus on ways to educate young people about safe sex practices, according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse, 5/24). Through its campaigns to increase condom use among commercial sex workers, Thailand has reduced the number of new HIV/AIDS cases attributable to sexual encounters from 140,000 in 1991 to 21,000 in 2002, according to Xinhuanet. A 2003 survey showed that 98% of customers at Thai brothels used condoms (Xinhuanet, 5/24). Sudarat said that approximately three million free condoms will be distributed during the conference and condom vending machines will be installed in men's restrooms, department stores and factories, according to the Post (Bangkok Post, 5/25). Thaksin said that the conference will include speeches by celebrities, including actor Richard Gere, and more than 30,000 delegates -- including world leaders, advocates, scientists and people living with HIV/AIDS -- are expected to attend. The conference, which runs from July 11-16, has the theme "Access for All" (Nation, 5/24).
Webcasts and other coverage of the XV International AIDS Conference will be available online at kaisernetwork.org/aids2004. Kaisernetwork.org will serve as the conference's official webcaster.
Additional information on the conference, including online registration, is available at aids2004.org.