News & Current Affairs

August 9, 2008

Aids conference ends with warning

Aids conference ends with warning

HIV particles

More than 30 million people around the world are infected with HIV

An international Aids conference has ended with a warning that commitments made by wealthy countries to fund access to HIV treatment may not be met.

The charity Oxfam said there had been an air of complacency from government and UN officials at the Mexico meeting.

In 2005, the G8 industrialised nations set a goal of providing HIV treatment to all who needed it by 2010.

But with less than two years to go, the G8 leaders have committed little more than a third of the promised resources.

Michel Kazatchkine, the head of the Global Fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, said that although lives were being saved on an unprecedented scale, he was deeply concerned at the lack of funds.

Three priorities

“We should be deeply concerned that with less than two years to go before our deadline for universal access, the G8 has committed little more than a third of the resources that it has promised to deliver by 2010,” said Mr Kazatchkine at the close of the six-day conference.

What we have is the sense of real slippage
Robert Fox
Oxfam

Millions of lives were at stake, said Robert Fox, the leader of Oxfam International’s delegation in Mexico City.

“What we have is the sense of real slippage, that well you know it may not be 2010 and it probably will be 2015, as if that doesn’t matter,” he said.

Twenty-four thousand people attended the conference, and the organisers said the voices of those who bore the brunt of the HIV-pandemic had been loud and clear.

Mr Kazatchkine highlighted three priorities to take the battle against Aids forward:

  • Defeating the discrimination against those with Aids virus flourished
  • Focussing research on more coordinated research
  • Strengthening health systems in developing nations

The Mexico City conference was the 17th of its kind since acquired immune deficiency syndrome (Aids) emerged in 1981.

The next conference will be held in Vienna in 2010.

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August 5, 2008

Clinton wants Aids funding boost

Former US President Bill Clinton has called for an increase in funding to keep down the cost of drugs for people with HIV.

Courtesy BBC

Mr Clinton told a world Aids conference in Mexico that a 50% rise was needed in the next two years just to keep pace with expanding drug programme.

Figures released ahead of the meeting show the number of people with HIV worldwide has decreased slightly.

However, infection rates are still rising in some countries.

Across the world 33 million people are affected by the syndrome.

“Aids is a very big dragon. The mythological dragon was slain by Saint George, the original knight in shining armour, but this dragon must be slain by millions and millions of foot soldiers,” Mr Clinton told the conference.

A crowd of demonstrators holding banners calling for housing for people with HIV walked in front of the podium during his speech.

Mr Clinton used the moment to talk about how rising oil, food prices and the mortgage crisis had made the lives of people with HIV even more difficult.

There was “no silver bullet” to rid the world of the disease, he said.

“We know there is so much yet to be done: to expand prevention, treatment and care, to strengthen undeveloped health systems,” he added.

Universal access

The six-day conference was preceded by an awareness march, a photo exhibition and other events.

About 20,000 scientists, government officials and campaigners are in Mexico City for the event.

Funding, access to treatment, improving prevention against HIV and social issues such as stigma and violence against women are all on the agenda.

However delegates are not expecting any breakthrough announcement concerning new drugs or the search for a preventative vaccine.

The UN General Assembly and the Group of Eight (G8) have set the goal of achieving universal access to treatment and therapy by 2010.

Since Aids first became widely known, a quarter of a century ago, 25 million people have died.

In one positive development, US President George W Bush recently won backing to triple US spending on combating the syndrome.

But in some countries like Russia and China, and even Germany and the UK, the rates of infection are rising, the BBC’s Duncan Kennedy reports from Mexico City.

In the US, better detection methods have just shown the figures there have been underestimated by about 30%.

And in Africa, home to 70% of cases, access to the right drugs is improving but there are not enough health care workers to administer them.

There are concerns too about the human rights of sufferers who are often too scared to seek treatment.

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