G8 Leaders Adopt Final Communique Pledging To Finance Fight Against Infectious Diseases, Prevention Programs, Vaccine Research
Leaders from the Group of Eight industrialized nations on Monday at the conclusion of their summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, signed a final communique that included commitments to fight infectious diseases -- including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria -- worldwide, the New York Times reports (Philips/Schwirtz, New York Times, 7/17). In the communique, G8 leaders committed to providing billions of dollars over the next 10 years to curb infectious diseases and to promote education and awareness programs in developing nations, the Chicago Tribune reports. G8 leaders also pledged to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS worldwide through prevention measures such as microbicides and vaccines, particularly for diseases that increase the risk of HIV infection (Silva/Rodriguez, Chicago Tribune, 7/18). Leaders also agreed to establish a global center for HIV vaccine research, as well as to support a Russian proposal for a regional HIV vaccine coordinating body in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ITAR-TASS, 7/17). In addition, Russian President Vladimir Putin in his closing remarks said that the G8 nations will work with other donors to generate resources for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and to achieve universal access to HIV/AIDS drugs in developing countries by 2010 (G8 release, 7/17).
Infectious Diseases, Development Commitments
In addition to HIV/AIDS-specific pledges, G8 leaders also made commitments concerning infectious disease control, health care systems and drug tariffs worldwide, Washington File reports (Washington File, 7/17). Leaders pledged to strengthen health care infrastructures in developing nations and to promote the development of new drugs and vaccines through government-private partnerships (ITAR-TASS, 7/17). The final communique also pledged to address the shortage of health care workers in developing countries through awareness programs and the recruitment and training of health care workers (Chicago Tribune, 7/18). G8 members also will work to strengthen global partnerships on infectious disease surveillance and monitoring, and share virus samples and other data on disease outbreaks. G8 leaders also called on governments to consider eliminating tariffs for drugs and medical devices in developing countries to increase access to treatment (Washington File, 7/17). In addition, Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday at the summit called on governments to improve international efforts to fight infectious diseases, Xinhua/People's Daily reports. "In recent years frequent outbreaks of emerging communicable disease, such as SARS and avian flu, together with the rampant spread of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, have posed a threat to people's health and lives," Hu said, adding, "The international community should establish and improve multilateral cooperation mechanisms for preventing and controlling communicable diseases" (Xinhua/People's Daily, 7/18).
Some international groups on Monday said they were disappointed with the outcome of the G8 summit, saying that leaders did not live up to their previous commitments on infectious diseases and other issues (Stolyarova, St. Petersburg Times, 7/18). Oxfam spokesperson Max Lawson said, "By downplaying the fight against poverty, the G8 ignored the world's most critical crisis," adding, "Ending poverty is a race against time -- this year the G8 were jogging in circles" (Irish Times, 7/18). ActionAid International urged G8 leaders to "close the gap between rhetoric and action" on fighting HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases and said G8 leaders had "sidelin[ed] the world's poorest nations" in trade negotiations (LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, 7/18). Although some advocates praised Russia for its recent pledge to the Global Fund, they criticized Japan and Germany for falling short of their Global Fund commitments, the Associated Press reports. "Germany, Japan and the European Commission all need to step up to close the funding gap," Kirsty McNeill of DATA said (Burkhardt, Associated Press, 7/17).
Related Editorials, Opinion Pieces
Los Angeles Times: Although it is "encouraging" that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged to make poverty the "top priority" at next year's G8 summit in Germany, it "would be naive to believe that, had events in the Middle East not taken such a horrifying turn, this year's summit would have made much progress on either trade or poverty," a Times editorial says. "But at least Merkel's gesture shows that the campaign to attack the world's most pressing problem remains alive," the editorial concludes (Los Angeles Times, 7/18).
- Bertil Lindblad, St. Petersburg Times: "This is the time to step up the fight against" the HIV/AIDS pandemic, UNAIDS Russia Representative Lindblad writes in a Times opinion piece. The "personal engagement, commitment and support of each of the G8 leaders will be critical to overcoming the greatest global challenge of our generation," Lindblad writes, concluding, "We know what it takes to turn the tide against AIDS" (Lindblad, St. Petersburg Times, 7/18).
- Antonia Penalosa and Guy Ryder, Financial Times: "Sustainable development cannot progress unless there is an aggressive response to" the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Penalosa, secretary general of the International Organization of Employers, and Ryder, general secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, write in a Financial Times letter to the editor. G8 leaders need to create a permanent working group on HIV/AIDS at the summit because "there will be no end to poverty unless HIV/AIDS is addressed on a regular basis by the leaders of the industrialized world," according to Penalosa and Ryder (Penalosa/Ryder, Financial Times, 7/15).