XV International AIDS Conference Organizers Say Researchers, Advocates Must Work Together To Combat AIDS
The organizers of the XV International AIDS Conference, which is scheduled to be held July 11-16 in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday at a press conference called for researchers and advocates to work together to "successfully battle" the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. International AIDS Society President Dr. Joep Lange, who also is conference co-chair, said that the 2004 conference for the first time includes a program "integrating all parties" in the fight against the disease, according to the AP/Post-Intelligencer. The conference's Community Program will include formal sessions from groups that were "left on the fringes of previous conferences," including faith-based groups and organizations that promote women's, youth and gay rights issues, the AP/Post-Intelligencer reports. Lange said, "As scientists, our job does not end with the discovery of new treatments or more effective HIV prevention methods. The devastation caused by this pandemic demands that scientists work with communities affected by HIV/AIDS and leaders from both the public and private sectors to ensure that such breakthroughs are available to all." This year's Scientific Program will include more than 400 presentations on HIV/AIDS-related issues, including new treatments, prevention methods and statistical trends, according to the AP/Post-Intelligencer (Peck, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/26). In addition, the conference also will feature a Leadership Program that will focus on mobilizing resources for HIV/AIDS (XV International AIDS Conference release, 5/26). The leaders of 13 countries and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan are expected to attend a leadership summit hosted by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra during the conference (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/25).
Organizers also said that the conference will include discussions of Thailand's "groundbreaking" generic antiretroviral program and the possible implications that a free-trade agreement with the United States could have on the program, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/26). The Thai Health Ministry currently distributes domestically produced antiretroviral drugs to approximately 70,000 HIV-positive people through state hospitals. Thai Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said that the country plans to increase its drug production in 2005 to treat approximately 200,000 people and give the excess drugs to neighboring countries. 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/25). Conference Community Program Co-Chair Donald de Gagne said, "Thailand produces enough [antiretrovirals] to look after the people that are needing the treatment right now and is treating the people from Burma and Laos," adding, "They want to scale that up and also export to other neighboring countries and Africa, but under the U.S. agreement that would not be possible." Lange said that the conference will include "a lot of discussion on the need for cheaper drugs and the need to protect intellectual property rights," adding, "If you really want to treat millions of people in resource-poor countries, then there is going to be no other solution than having branded companies and generic companies working together to meet demand" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/26).
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.