AIDS conference to mobilize political will
March 23 2004 1:00 AM ET
This year's International AIDS Conference aims to mobilize political will to effectively distribute new medicines to combat the deadly disease, a conference organizer said Monday.
Now that scientific breakthroughs have created effective and affordable medicines, a political commitment is needed from governments to ensure that these medicines reach the needy, said Gustaaf Wolvaart, a senior adviser to the conference. "Most of the monetary restrictions in terms of providing the antiretroviral drugs have been addressed," he said, referring to price cuts, production of generic drugs, and subsidy programs. "Now the issue is going to be how to mobilize the political will to roll these things out."
Some 15,000-20,000 people are expected to attend the 15th International AIDS Conference, scheduled for July 11-16 in Bangkok, Thailand, said Wolvaart. It will probably be the biggest AIDS conference yet as well as one of the world's biggest medical meetings, he told a news conference.
Wolvaart said the need for much more money to fight AIDS, the danger of complacency in prevention programs, and the increasing role of religious organizations in combating the disease would also be addressed at the conference. Wolvaart, who organized the 2000 AIDS meeting in Durban, South Africa, said that year's conference changed perceptions about access to antiretroviral drugs. Afterward, the high prices of the drugs used to treat AIDS sufferers began to fall, making them affordable for developing countries. Antiretroviral drugs slow down the replication of HIV and, if taken regularly, can reduce the damage the virus does to the body and improve a patient's health and quality of life.
Similarly, an earlier conference helped spread the idea that contracting AIDS is not necessarily a death sentence, Wolvaart said. The leaders of six nations--China, India, Brazil, Nigeria, Uganda, and Russia--have been formally invited by Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to the conference and are expected to attend.