World Must Act To Achieve Commitments To Provide Universal Access to HIV/AIDS Treatment, Conference Delegates Say
The world cannot celebrate advances in HIV diagnosis and treatment until global commitments to provide HIV-positive people in developing countries with universal access to treatment by 2010 are reached, delegates attending the opening of the 4th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Sydney, Australia, said on Sunday, the AP/Washington Post reports (Foley, AP/Washington Post, 7/22).
Delegates attending the conference, which will end on Wednesday, are expected to present studies and discuss advances in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. The conference aims to improve understanding of HIV/AIDS, treatments for the disease and methods to prevent it from spreading worldwide.
David Cooper, director of Australia's National Centre for HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research and conference co-chair, said studies scheduled to be presented at the conference will highlight research into new vaccines and classes of antiretroviral drugs, as well as research on male circumcision and lubricant gels as methods to curb the spread of HIV. He added that integrase inhibitors, a new class of antiretrovirals, will be discussed at the conference. According to Cooper, another major topic at the conference will be making the latest drugs available in developing countries.
The International AIDS Society ahead of the conference released the Sydney Declaration, which calls for increased research funding to fight HIV/AIDS worldwide. The declaration proposes that donors allocate 10% of their HIV resources to research and states that "although funding remains insufficient to meet the increasing need for services, it is imperative that the global community does not lose sight of the future while responding to the immediate crisis" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/20).
IAS President Pedro Cahn at the opening of the conference said that although antiretrovirals are easily accessible in Western nations, most people in developing countries do not have access to the drugs they need. "With fewer than one-third of people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries having access to lifesaving medications and still fewer with access to proven prevention services, such as condoms and sterile syringes, the goal of universal access by 2010 must remain a priority," he said (McLean, AAP/News.co.au, 7/22). Cahn also said that the world is "dealing with a preventable disease, and 11,000 people are contracting HIV/AIDS every day," adding, "We are dealing with a treatable disease and more than three million people are dying" of AIDS-related illnesses annually (AP/Washington Post, 7/22). According to Cahn, "Science has given us the tools to prevent and treat HIV effectively." He added, "The fact that we have not yet translated this science into practice ... is a shameful failure" on the part of the global community (AAP/News.co.au, 7/22).
According to Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, about 2.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries received antiretroviral access last year. "However, for every one person that you put in therapy, six new people get infected," Fauci said, adding, "So we're losing that game, the numbers game." The "proven prevention modalities are not accessible to any substantial proportion of the people who need them," Fauci said. "Although we are making major improvements in the access to drugs, clearly, prevention must be addressed in a very forceful way," he added (Foley, AP/Forbes, 7/23). According to Fauci, of the estimated 60 million HIV cases that will occur by 2015, "already known and proven prevention methods" are projected to be able to have prevented about half of them (AP/Washington Post, 7/22). He added that the research community has "incredibly potent treatments on the horizon, possible vaccines in the pipeline and new options for using these things in ways we haven't before. But as for a cure, let's just stop talking about it" (AAP/Taipei Times, 7/23).
According to Fauci, an additional obstacle to HIV/AIDS control efforts is that women in many developing countries cannot negotiate condom use with their husbands or regular sex partners, leaving them "at the mercy of a situation over which they have very little control" (Australian Associated Press, 7/22).
Michel Kazatchkine -- executive director of the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- said that 2.2 million lives had been saved because of recent increases in drug access in Africa, Asia, eastern Europe, Latin America and Russia. However, more funding is needed to provide antiretrovirals to the more than 70% of HIV-positive people in developing countries who do not have access. According to United Nations estimates, $18 billion will be needed next year for global HIV/AIDS programs and more than $22 billion will be needed annually by 2010. According to Kazatchkine, these figures are a small fraction of the $2 trillion of new wealth generated worldwide annually. "Don't tell me this is unaffordable," Kazatchkine said, adding, "Yes, everyone needs to put more money on the table" to provide universal access, "but the message is we should be able to win the battle" (Williams, Sydney Morning Herald, 7/23).
Abbott Drops Suit Against French HIV/AIDS Group for Launching Attack on Company's Web Site
Abbott Laboratories at the conference on Sunday announced that it has agreed to drop its lawsuit against the French HIV/AIDS group Act Up-Paris, according to IAS (IAS release, 7/22). Abbott in May filed the suit in French criminal court against Act Up-Paris for launching an attack on the company's Web server. Act Up-Paris on April 26 organized the attack in response to a call from Thai HIV/AIDS groups to protest Abbott's recent actions regarding its antiretroviral drugs Aluvia and Kaletra in Thailand. The group encouraged between 500 and 1,000 HIV/AIDS advocates from Canada, France, India, Thailand and the U.S. to click on a link posted on Act Up-Paris' Web site that caused Abbott's server to become overloaded.
In the suit, Abbott claimed that the attack interrupted some of its business activities, such as online sales of nutritional products. Abbott also alleged that the group violated two articles of the French penal code that prohibit disrupting a Web site and providing the means to do so (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/18).
According to the release, Abbott and Act Up-Paris agreed to hold future discussions on the issue. They also agreed that their primary goal is to promote HIV prevention, treatment and care access worldwide and that access to information, including through Web sites and other media, is important (IAS release, 7/22). According to a joint release from Act Up-Paris and the Thai Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS, Abbott while meeting with the groups at the IAS conference did not agree to introduce Aluvia into the Thai market (Act Up-Paris/Thai Network of P+ release, 7/22).
Kaisernetwork.org will serve as the official webcaster of the IAS conference. Individuals can sign up for a free daily update e-mail and find more information about conference webcasts online.
Video of the opening session is available online. An interview with Cahn also is available online.
"National Nine News" on Monday included a discussion with Kevin De Cock, director of the HIV/AIDS Department at the World Health Organization, about male circumcision and HIV prevention ("National Nine News," 7/23). Video of the segment is available online. A kaisernetwork.org interview with De Cock also is available online.