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New HIV data
leads to calls for lower drug prices, more prevention

New HIV data
leads to calls for lower drug prices, more prevention

AIDS leaders around the world are responding to new United Nations data showing a record number of HIV infections in 2005 by calling for drug companies to lower antiretroviral medication prices and for governments around the world to step up funding of HIV prevention and treatment programs. The report, released Monday and titled "AIDS Epidemic Update: December 2005," shows that there were 5 million new HIV infections worldwide this year, nearly 3.1 million AIDS deaths, and an estimated 40.3 million people around the world living with HIV.

Noting that the report shows that some countries that have invested heavily in HIV prevention programs decreased their HIV prevalence during the past five years, including Kenya, Zimbabwe, and some Caribbean countries, AIDS leaders are calling for stepped-up prevention efforts in every nation. "This [report] is an affirmation that global investments and commitment can have an impact on the devastation of this disease," Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, said in a statement. "We must now accelerate the scale-up of prevention, testing, and treatment to keep pace with the growing epidemic."

Mark Stirling, the director of AIDS programs for Eastern and Southern Africa for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, says prevention programs need to be scaled up in every nation, including promotion of condom use, safe blood use, mother-to-child prevention efforts, needle exchanges, and widespread HIV antibody testing, The Boston Globe reports.

Jim Yong Kim, the World Health Organization's AIDS director, is calling for pharmaceutical companies around the world to work together to jointly produce anti-HIV medications at low prices, even if it means large companies allowing generic firms to make cheap versions of their medications. "I don't see another way to get the prices to the levels needed so that the Group of Eight [industrialized nations] can meet its aspirations," Kim told the Financial Times. "Their cost for the cheapest second-line HIV drug is $1,500, while I have Chinese companies who tell me they can do it for $150 but won't because they don't want to violate patents." (

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