Hundreds of HIV/AIDS Advocates Sign Declaration Calling for Provision of Free Antiretroviral Drugs in Developing Countries
Nearly 600 "high-level" HIV/AIDS advocates have signed a declaration to be presented Tuesday to the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, World Bank and donor countries stating that antiretroviral drugs must be provided at no cost for everyone who needs them in developing countries, or there will be "no hope" of reaching the goals of WHO's 3 by 5 Initiative, London's Guardian reports (Boseley, Guardian, 12/14). The 3 by 5 Initiative aims to have three million HIV-positive people on antiretroviral drug treatment by 2005. As of July, when the first progress report for the initiative was released, there were approximately 440,000 people receiving treatment under the program. WHO had hoped to have 500,000 HIV-positive people receiving treatment by then (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/8). The "Free by 5" declaration, which is spearheaded by the Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, aims to "provide economic and public health evidence" to policymakers, urge donors to "adopt guidelines and actively promote the principle and implementation of free treatment" and assist in advocacy efforts for the provision of antiretroviral drugs at no cost, according to a HEARD release. As of Monday, the initiative had 573 signatories, including Stephen Lewis, U.N. special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa (HEARD release, 12/13). "The push for access to antiretroviral treatment has greater momentum than ever before," Lewis said, adding, "For many it will mean the difference, literally, between life and death. However, if it is not free, then the poor will not benefit. This declaration clearly sets out why treatment should be available free. It is deserving of our support" (Guardian, 12/14). A list of the signatories is available online.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.