Hundreds of AIDS advocates call for free anti-HIV drugs
Nearly 600 AIDS activists, many of whom hold high-level positions in AIDS service organizations and health agencies, have signed a declaration calling for free antiretroviral drugs to treat all HIV-positive people in developing countries, The [Manchester, U.K.] Guardian reports. The declaration was presented to the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS on Tuesday. Unless free anti-HIV drugs are made immediately available in poor nations, there is no hope of meeting WHO's "3 by 5" initiative, which aims to have 3 million HIV-positive people on antiretroviral therapy by 2005. As of July, only about 440,000 people have received the drugs through the program. The declaration was spearheaded by the Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
As of Monday, 573 people from more than 75 nations had signed the declaration, including Stephen Lewis, the U.N. special envoy for AIDS in Africa; Philippe Douste Blazy, France's minister of health; and Paul Zeitz of the Global AIDS Alliance. "The push for access to antiretroviral treatment has greater momentum than ever before," Lewis told The Guardian. "For many it will mean the difference, literally, between life and death. However, if it is not free, then the poor will not benefit. This declaration clearly sets out why treatment should be available free. It is deserving of our support." A full list of signees can be seen online at www.nu.ac.za/heard.