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[afro-nets] "3x5" AIDS Initiative Imperiled By Low Funding, U.N. Says

  • Subject: [afro-nets] "3x5" AIDS Initiative Imperiled By Low Funding, U.N. Says
  • From: Leela McCullough <leela@healthnet.org>
  • Date: Mon, 15 Mar 2004 16:11:30 -0500
  • Cc:

"3x5" AIDS Initiative Imperiled By Low Funding, U.N. Says

From U.N. Wire
Monday, March 15, 2004

The U.N. initiative to provide anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) to 3
million AIDS sufferers in developing countries by 2005 is facing
funding shortfalls that could put it out of operation, U.N. and
World Health Organization officials have said.

Just $2.3 billion has been secured out of the $5.5 billion
needed, with only the United Kingdom, Sweden and Spain having
contributed to date.

"If http://www.who.int/3by5/en/ 3 x 5 fails, as it surely will
without the dollars, then there are no excuses left, no ration-
alizations to hide behind. There will only be the mass graves of
the betrayed," said Stephen Lewis, the U.N. secretary general's
special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.

London Observer reports that some countries, particularly the
United States, are reluctant to fund the project in part because
of its reliance on fixed-dose combination of ARVs, which in-
fringe on patent law in some wealthier nations.

The United States has said it questions the safety of the combi-
nation drugs, but AIDS activists argue that the U.S. stance has
been shaped by resistance from pharmaceutical companies, which
disapprove of the drugs because they are made from ingredients
discovered by the companies and under patent.

"The U.S.'s position is to buy drugs only approved by the (Fed-
eral Drug Administration)," said Ellen 'T Hoen of
http://www.msf.org/ Medecins sans Frontieres. "The fixed dose
can't be approved by the FDA because of patent problems, not be-
cause of their safety and efficacy."

The United States is sponsoring a two-day conference later this
month in Botswana to discuss the principles of regulation of the
ARV combination drugs (Alison Langley, London Observer, March

In other news, Zimbabwe is set to launch ARV treatment this
month at five pilot centers, with 260,000 HIV sufferers expected
to benefit by the end of next year,

Integrated Regional Information Networks reports. WHO is provid-
ing technical support for the project, which is estimated to
cost less than US$ 25 per month because of partnerships with
local manufacturers (IRIN, March 10).

Meanwhile, activists in nearby Swaziland, which introduced ARVs
last year after significant international pressure, warn that
distribution is haphazard and patients are not given enough
guidance in their treatment programs,

IRIN reports.

"There are pharmacies in Mbabane that sell ARVs to anyone coming
off the street," said Siphiwe Hlope, co-director of the AIDS
support group Swazis for Positive Living. "They do not dispense
instructions, because the queue of people wishing to buy (the
drugs) is so long."

"We concur with the government's policy to permit ARVs, but a
law regulating their distribution is needed ­ anyone can sell
ARVs. Taxi drivers going to clinics to pick up ARVs for people
get an extra supply, and they sell them to passengers," Hlope

Activists also worry that patients are starting and then stop-
ping treatment, risking treatment resistance.

"People are not told to expect side effects. When they become
nauseous, dizzy and develop flu-like symptoms, which is to be
expected with ARVs, they tell us they stop taking the pills be-
cause they think they are poisoning them," said one health

The Health Ministry has said it will prepare a statement to ad-
dress improper distribution.

According to U.N. figures, 38.6 percent of adults in Swaziland
are infected with HIV. The National Emergency Response Committee
on HIV/AIDS says half of all Swazis in their twenties have the
virus (IRIN, March 5).

Leela McCullough, Ed.D.
Director of Information Services
30 California Street, Watertown, MA 02472, USA
Tel: +1-617-926-9400
Fax: +1-617-926-1212