[Ip-health] MSF Press Release: AIDS Progress Threatened By a Double Blow, Warns MSF: Stagnant Funding and New Barriers to Affordable AIDS Drugs

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Dec 1 03:28:10 PST 2010

AIDS Progress Threatened By a Double Blow, Warns MSF: Stagnant Funding  
New Barriers to Affordable AIDS Drugs

Geneva, 29 November 2010 – HIV/AIDS treatment in developing countries is
being dealt a double blow that will mean treatment recommendations  
be implemented and the promise of new science remain unfulfilled, said  
international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières

“The price of the newer medicines we need is set to go through the roof,
just as donors decided to retreat from their commitment to expand AIDS
treatment,” said Dr. Gilles van Cutsem, MSF’s medical coordinator for  
Africa and Lesotho.  “As doctors trying to treat people with HIV/AIDS,  
feel like our hands are being tied behind our back.”

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest recommendations for AIDS
include treating people with better tolerated drugs, and earlier. The
revised strategy calls for treating people before they become ill from
opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis.  Data just published from
MSF’s project in Lesotho shows the value of this new strategy: providing
people with treatment earlier led to a 68% reduction in deaths, a 27%
reduction in new diseases, a 63% reduction in hospitalization, and a 39%
reduction in people defaulting from care.

This “treat early” strategy has a benefit to individuals, but also to
society, as it makes people with HIV less infectious and hence less  
to transmit the virus.  Research in Africa has shown that treating  
AIDS can
reduce heterosexual transmission of the virus by 92%.

“The evidence of what we need to do in order to turn the tide of the
epidemic is mounting,” said Dr. van Cutsem. “But just as we’re seeing  
promise of the latest treatment recommendations, the money that donors  
allocating to HIV/AIDS is stagnating. Even South Africa, a middle-income
country with the largest ART programme in the world, will struggle to
implement the full WHO recommendations if its Round 10 proposal to the
Global Fund is not approved.”

The Global Fund recently received only US$11.7 billion in pledges,  
to the $20 billion it has said it needed. The US-funded PEPFAR program,
which supports at least half of all people on HIV/AIDS treatment in
developing countries, is flat-lining funding for the third year in a  

At the same time, rich countries are working to give unfair advantages  
companies that make patented products, limiting access to generic  
and raising prices.  80% of the AIDS medicines MSF uses to treat 160,000
people come from generic producers in India, the so-called ‘pharmacy  
of the
developing world,’ as do more than 80% of donor-funded AIDS medicines  
on a
global scale.  India’s position as key producer of affordable  
medicines has
already been compromised by World Trade Organization rules that obligate
the country to grant patents on medicines.

Yet India has a patents law that imposes strict limits on what can and
cannot be patented, in the interest of public health.  Multinational
pharmaceutical companies have tried and failed to have this law  
and now the EU is taking up their fight. As a part of free trade  
negotiations with India, the EU is pushing for policies such as ‘data
exclusivity,’ which would act to restrict even further generic  
ability to put more affordable generic medicines on the market.  If  
the EU
wins, access to affordable generic versions of newer medicines needed to
tackle HIV/AIDS will be severely compromised.

We can’t afford to simply watch rich countries chip away at our  
ability to
treat people living with HIV/AIDS,” said Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer,
Executive Director of MSF’s Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.
“We urge people to take a stand and say they do not support the European
Commission doing the bidding of drug companies.”

MSF has been providing antiretroviral therapy since 2000 and today  
more than 160,000 people living with HIV/AIDS. Five million people are  
treatment in developing countries today.  This represents important
progress, but ten million people are still waiting in line and will die
within the next several years if left untreated.

TAKE ACTION TODAY, Help protect millions of ppl in the developing  
access to AIDS meds. Join MSF today, & tell Europe "Hands Off Our  
https://action.msf.org ****************


Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)
thiru at keionline.org

Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997

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