U.N. Special Envoy Lewis Urges Canada, Other Wealthy Nations To Do More To Combat HIV/AIDS in Developing World
U.N. Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis on Wednesday at a press conference in Toronto urged wealthy nations to cancel the debt of the world's poorest countries, which need more resources to combat HIV/AIDS, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. Speaking at a news conference ahead of the XVI International AIDS Conference, which is scheduled to begin Sunday, Lewis said, there is an "urgent need to deal with AIDS in the context of poverty." Lewis said that the Group of Eight industrialized nations' pledges are "unraveling," as only one-third of the world's poorest countries could expect to have their debt cancelled by the middle of this year and donors have committed less than half the money needed to meet targets to cut poverty and prevent the spread of HIV (AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/9). In their final communique at their 2005 summit, leaders of the G8 agreed to cancel debt for the world's poorest nations. The previous month, G8 finance ministers had agreed to increase efforts to provide universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment by 2010, as well as encourage research into vaccines for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. They also agreed to an immediate doubling of aid to Africa to $50 billion annually by 2010 to fight poverty and disease on the continent (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/14).
Lewis Calls on Canada To Endorse HIV Plan
Lewis on Wednesday also called on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to endorse a four-point plan for Canada to help control the spread of HIV worldwide, Canada's National Post reports. The plan is endorsed by more than 80 development and humanitarian organizations in the country, according to the Post (Casey, National Post, 8/10). The Global Treatment Access Group and the Make Poverty History campaign drafted the plan (Gandhi, Globe and Mail, 8/10). The plan calls on Canada to set a timetable to increase its development aid to 0.7% of its gross national income; contribute 5% of funding for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria's budget annually for the next five years; fund public health care systems in developing countries; and cancel the debts of poor countries to enable them to spend more money on HIV/AIDS programs and poverty reduction (CBC News, 8/9). According to Lewis, of the 22 countries that have endorsed the 0.7% target, Canada is the only country not to have set a deadline. "The United Kingdom has said it will reach the 0.7% by 2013, France by 2012, Germany and Italy by 2015. Canada ... refuses to set a timetable. That's not only delinquent, but it is -- as people have said -- hypocritical," Lewis said. Harper's office on Wednesday would not comment on the plan, according to Toronto's Globe and Mail. In addition, Lewis said Canada should focus on supporting HIV/AIDS control efforts in two or three countries, rather than the current 25, so the epidemic can be addressed one country at a time (Globe and Mail, 8/10). Lewis also criticized the Canadian government for not supplying developing countries with low-cost medications (Talaga, Toronto Star, 8/10). Almost two years after Canada amended its laws to allow drug makers to manufacture and export less expensive, generic versions of patented drugs -- including antiretroviral drugs -- to developing countries, no drugs have been exported as a result of the law, according to recent media reports (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/4). According to a Medecins Sans Frontieres spokesperson, one low-cost generic drug for use in developing countries is in development (Globe and Mail, 8/10).
Canada, G8 Nations Failing To Meet Funding Targets
Canada and other G8 nations are failing to meet their Global Fund financing targets, the Global AIDS Alliance said Thursday, CP/CBCNews reports. According to Paul Zeitz, executive director of GAA, France is the only G8 nation currently meeting its fair share of Global Fund financing. The Global Fund targets used by Zeitz are based on the level of United Nations dues that each country pays, CP/CBCNews reports. GAA said that Canada this year must increase its contributions by about $53 million and make a long-term pledge to the initiative. "Canada is not meeting its commitments," Zeitz said, adding that the country's 2006 contribution of about $250 million covers about 4% of the Global Fund's budget. The Canadian International Development Agency disputed Zeitz's claim, according to CP/CBCNews. "Canada is paying its fair share to the Global Fund and more broadly to the overall fight against HIV/AIDS and other major diseases in developing countries," CIDA spokesperson Bronwyn Cruden said, adding, "Canada's replenishment contribution represents approximately 5.7% of the $3.7 billion US total amount pledged for the replenishment period. This percentage is significantly larger than Canada's generally assigned 'fair share' of 4%." According to Cruden, Canada since 2000 has contributed more than $710 million to international HIV/AIDS initiatives. According to Zeitz, Germany also is behind on its Global Fund contributions, contributing less than half of its target, and Britain has reached 75% of its Global Fund financing target (Branswell, CP/CBCNews, 8/10).
Harper's Decision Not To Attend Conference Opening Draws Criticism
In related news, Harper's decision not to attend the conference's opening has drawn criticism from some conference delegates. Louise Binder, who co-chairs the federal ministerial advisory council on AIDS, said, "This is the most serious health problem the globe has ever seen, and we're hosting the largest conference with the most media that's ever been, and our prime minister can't come and say a few words of welcome," adding, "It's not a political matter for me." Richard Elliot, of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said, "I think (Harper's decision not to attend) sends a very poor message about the level of commitment of the government of Canada to dealing with this epidemic." The Canadian government is expected to be represented by Health Minister Tony Clement and Minister of International Co-Operation Josee Verner (CBC News, 8/9).
Several broadcast programs reported on Lewis' statements, the opening of the conference and the global fight against HIV/AIDS:
CTV's "Canada AM": The program included an interview with Binder (O'Regan, "Canada AM," CTV, 8/9). The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.
- CTV's "Newsnet": The program included interviews with Lewis; Pam Barnes, president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation; and Mark Wainberg, co-chair of the XVI International AIDS Conference and director of the McGill University AIDS Centre ("Newsnet," CTV, 8/10). Video of the interview with Lewis is available online in Windows Media. Video of the interview with Barnes is available online in Windows Media. Video of the interview with Wainberg is available online in Windows Media. Expanded CTV coverage of the conference is available online.
- NPR's "Talk of the Nation/Science Friday": The program on Friday is scheduled to include an interview with Seth Berkley, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, about the state of vaccine research (Flatow, "Talk of the Nation/Science Friday," NPR, 8/11). Audio of the segment in RealPlayer and Windows Media will be available online after the broadcast.
Radio Canada International's "Canada Today to Africa": The program on Thursday included a report examining the medical and scientific advances in HIV/AIDS over the past 25 years (Brosnahan, "Canada Today to Africa," RCI, 8/10). The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.
- RCI's "Canada Today to Africa": The program on Wednesday included an interview with Lewis (Nichols, "Canada Today to Africa," RCI, 8/9). The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.
TV Ontario: The network on Sunday is scheduled to air "Move Your World," a documentary about three Canadian teenagers who travel to Tanzania to see the effects of HIV/AIDS on the country's residents, especially children. "Move Your World," which won the audience choice award at the 2006 Sprockets Film Festival for Children, is scheduled to air at 7 p.m. ET. A video excerpt of the documentary and additional archived video on HIV/AIDS -- including interviews with Lewis; Deborah Ellis, author of a young adult book about children affected by HIV/AIDS; and Tim Evans, an assistant director-general at the World Health Organization -- are available online.
- VOANews: The segment includes comments from Eric Cohen, a researcher in the Department of Human Retroviral Research at the University of Montreal who is investigating why a "reservoir" of HIV remains in the body in spite of antiretroviral treatment; Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and Lewis (Berman, VOANews, 8/9). The complete transcript of the segment is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
The XVI International AIDS Conference program is available online.
Kaisernetwork.org will serve as official webcaster of the conference. Sign up now to receive free daily e-mail updates during the conference at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/aids2006.
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