[Ip-health] MSF Report: Fragile Progress as Several Countries Upgrade to Better AIDS Treatment

Joanna Keenan joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Wed May 11 08:49:43 PDT 2011

*MSF Report: Fragile Progress as Several Countries Upgrade to Better AIDS

* *

*Top Donor Countries Oppose Crucial Treatment Target Ahead of UN AIDS Summit

*New York, 11 May 2011* – A report released today by the international
medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) revealed
that several countries hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic are improving HIV
treatment to reduce deaths and illness – but a lack of support from donors
prevents many from making vital changes.  This fragile progress needs
sustained support, but the two biggest AIDS donors, the US and UK, are
opposing a critical HIV treatment target ahead of next month’s AIDS Summit
in New York at a time when mounting evidence shows that HIV treatment can
also prevent HIV infections.

“Our report shows that there is clear engagement from countries to providing
an ambitious response to AIDS, by changing their guidelines to put people on
treatment earlier and with better drugs,” said Dr Tido von Schoen-Angerer,
Executive Director of MSF’s Access Campaign.  “But because of funding
constraints, some of them are unable to put these guidelines into practice,
which serves as a reminder of how fragile this progress really is.”**

MSF’s new report, *Getting Ahead of the Wave,* provides a snapshot of the
response to the epidemic today, by looking at the policies put in place in
16 countries that together account for 52% of the global HIV/AIDS burden. Of
the 16, 12 have changed their treatment protocols to provide people with
treatment earlier in the course of their disease and 14 have changed
guidelines to move to better-tolerated drugs.  Both policies are part of the
latest recommendations from the World Health Organization.  Several
countries, such as Malawi and Zimbabwe, planned to implement improved
treatment protocols, but are unable to because of funding constraints. This
means keeping people on inferior drugs, or treating people only once their
immune systems are weak.

Governments are meeting at the UN in early June to commit to the blueprint
for the next decade of the global AIDS response.  They have been asked by
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to support a treatment target of putting at
least 13 million people on treatment by 2015 - others have called for the
number to be 15 million people. But in closed meetings, the US and some
European governments, such as the UK, have so far expressed opposition to
support such a target.  Having all governments commit to a treatment target
is important if a credible global response is to be mounted to break the
back of the epidemic.

“Today, ten million people are in urgent need of treatment,” said Dr von
Schoen-Angerer.  “We know so much more from the past decade about how to get
treatment to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.  With the
right policies in place, we could triple the number of people on treatment
without tripling the costs. But if key donor governments don’t support a
treatment target, they are sending a clear message that they do not intend
to ever come to grips with this pandemic.”

Recent scientific evidence also supports scaling up early treatment, as this
helps reduce the spread of the virus, by lowering the level of virus in
people’s blood sooner.  People whose ‘viral load’ has been suppressed to
undetectable levels have a 92% reduced risk of transmitting the virus.

“We know that HIV treatment saves lives, reduces illness and even
dramatically reduces the risk of one person passing the virus to another,”
said Dr Marcella Tomassi of MSF in Swaziland, where MSF provides treatment
in clinics throughout the small country in which 26% of the population has
HIV.  “Now, more than ever, governments need to renew their ambition to
fighting the epidemic and put people on treatment”.


*MSF began providing antiretroviral therapy (ART) to people living with
HIV/AIDS in 2000 and today provides ART to more than 170,000 people in 19
countries in Africa and Asia.  *

* *

*MSF’s report, *Getting Ahead of the Wave:  Lessons for the Next Decade of
the AIDS Response*, can be downloaded from www.msfaccess.org *

* *

**Joanna Keenan
Press Officer
Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines
Medecins Sans Frontieres

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