HIV/AIDS Treatment Access Decree Dropped at WHO Conference After U.S. Objection To Support for Needle-Exchange Program, Officials Say
Officials at the World Health Organization's Asia-Pacific conference in Auckland, New Zealand, on Friday said a resolution calling for universal HIV/AIDS treatment access was withdrawn after U.S. delegates proposed amendments, including removing wording that supported the use of needle-exchange programs to curb the pandemic among injection drug users, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports. Health officials from across the region on Thursday called for universal access to treatment for all HIV-positive people who need it by 2010. U.S. officials, in addition to a dispute over the needle-exchange provision in the resolution, had differences with the resolution's wording on high-risk groups -- including IDUs, commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men -- Richard Nesbit, WHO acting regional director, said. New Zealand Health Minister Pete Hodgson, chair of the meeting, said "[H]aving ascertained that no resolution would do no damage ... I put it to the meeting that we would be better off to have no resolution than one that was perceived to be weakened." Hodgson said the U.S. "position is that if they have needle exchanges, then people will use needles more and use intravenous drugs more," adding, "I think it is demonstrably wrong. New Zealand has had needle swaps for 20 years. It has been an amazing success." According to the AP/Herald Tribune, U.S. officials declined to comment (Mason, AP/International Herald Tribune, 9/21). U.S. foreign aid cannot be used to provide funding or services to programs that include needle exchanges. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in 2005 at the 48th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria, adopted the U.S. position opposing needle exchanges (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/29/05).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.