World Must Act To Achieve Commitments To Provide Universal Access To HIV/AIDS Treatment

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Universal Access To HIV/AIDS Treatment

The world cannot celebrate advances in HIV diagnosis and treatmentuntil global commitments to provide HIV-positive people in developingcountries 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).

Delegatesattending the conference, which will end on Wednesday, are expected topresent studies and discuss advances in HIV/AIDS prevention andtreatment. The conference aims to improve understanding of HIV/AIDS,treatments for the disease and methods to prevent it from spreadingworldwide.

David Cooper, director of Australia's National Centre for HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Researchand conference co-chair, said studies scheduled to be presented at theconference will highlight research into new vaccines and classes ofantiretroviral 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 bemaking 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 HIVresources to research and states that "although funding remainsinsufficient to meet the increasing need for services, it is imperativethat the global community does not lose sight of the future whileresponding to the immediate crisis" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/20).

Opening Statements


IAS President Pedro Cahn at the opening of the conference said thatalthough antiretrovirals are easily accessible in Western nations, mostpeople in developing countries do not have access to the drugs theyneed. "With fewer than one-third of people living with HIV in low- andmiddle-income countries having access to lifesaving medications andstill fewer with access to proven prevention services, such as condomsand sterile syringes, the goal of universal access by 2010 must remaina priority," he said (McLean, AAP/,7/22). Cahn also said that the world is "dealing with a preventabledisease, and 11,000 people are contracting HIV/AIDS every day," adding,"We are dealing with a treatable disease and more than three millionpeople are dying" of AIDS-related illnesses annually (AP/Washington Post,7/22). According to Cahn, "Science has given us the tools to preventand treat HIV effectively." He added, "The fact that we have not yettranslated this science into practice ... is a shameful failure" on thepart of the global community (AAP/, 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 countriesreceived antiretroviral access last year. "However, for every oneperson that you put in therapy, six new people get infected," Faucisaid, adding, "So we're losing that game, the numbers game." The"proven prevention modalities are not accessible to any substantialproportion of the people who need them," Fauci said. "Although we aremaking major improvements in the access to drugs, clearly, preventionmust be addressed in a very forceful way," he added (Foley, AP/Forbes,7/23). According to Fauci, of the estimated 60 million HIV cases thatwill occur by 2015, "already known and proven prevention methods" areprojected to be able to have prevented about half of them (AP/Washington Post,7/22). He added that the research community has "incredibly potenttreatments on the horizon, possible vaccines in the pipeline and newoptions for using these things in ways we haven't before. But as for acure, let's just stop talking about it" (AAP/Taipei Times, 7/23).

Accordingto Fauci, an additional obstacle to HIV/AIDS control efforts is thatwomen in many developing countries cannot negotiate condom use withtheir husbands or regular sex partners, leaving them "at the mercy of asituation 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 recentincreases in drug access in Africa, Asia, eastern Europe, Latin Americaand Russia. However, more funding is needed to provide antiretroviralsto the more than 70% of HIV-positive people in developing countries whodo not have access. According to United Nations estimates, $18 billionwill be needed next year for global HIV/AIDS programs and more than $22billion will be needed annually by 2010. According to Kazatchkine,these figures are a small fraction of the $2 trillion of new wealthgenerated worldwide annually. "Don't tell me this is unaffordable,"Kazatchkine said, adding, "Yes, everyone needs to put more money on thetable" to provide universal access, "but the message is we should beable 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 againstAct Up-Paris for launching an attack on the company's Web server. ActUp-Paris on April 26 organized the attack in response to a call fromThai HIV/AIDS groups to protest Abbott's recent actionsregarding its antiretroviral drugs Aluvia and Kaletra in Thailand. Thegroup 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 ActUp-Paris' Web site that caused Abbott's server to become overloaded.

Inthe suit, Abbott claimed that the attack interrupted some of itsbusiness activities, such as online sales of nutritional products.Abbott also alleged that the group violated two articles of the Frenchpenal code that prohibit disrupting a Web site and providing the meansto do so (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/18).

Accordingto the release, Abbott and Act Up-Paris agreed to hold futurediscussions on the issue. They also agreed that their primary goal isto promote HIV prevention, treatment and care access worldwide and thataccess to information, including through Web sites and other media, isimportant (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 notagree to introduce Aluvia into the Thai market (Act Up-Paris/ThaiNetwork of P+ release, 7/22).

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