News Release

Global Conference Getting Underway: AIDS and Drugs

The 13th International Conference on AIDS will be held in Durban, South Africa from July 9 to 14. The following analysts are available for interviews:

ROBERT WEISSMAN
Co-director of Essential Action, Weissman said today: “While Africa is experiencing an epidemic that ranks among the worst in world history, the multinational drug companies — which produce the drugs that can treat and extend the lives of those with HIV/AIDS — are focusing not on the humanitarian tragedy but on their bottom lines. There’s plenty of blame to go around for the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but certainly high up on the list are the drug company executives who prioritize protecting their intellectual property and guarding their profits over saving people’s lives.”
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JOELLE TANGUY
Executive director of Doctors Without Borders, USA, Tanguy said today: “For the first time, the International AIDS Conference will be held on the African continent and in a country where a significant proportion of the population has HIV/AIDS. People with HIV/AIDS in South Africa — and in all developing countries — are facing a severe crisis of access to the life-saving medications.” She added: “The antiretroviral drugs that have transformed HIV/AIDS from a death sentence to a chronic disease in developed countries are largely unavailable in developing countries, priced beyond the means of most people.”
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PETER LURIE, M.D.
Deputy director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, Lurie has until now attended every International AIDS Conference since 1992. He said today: “The greatest tragedy of the AIDS epidemic today is how much could have been done to reduce its toll and how little was done. Short courses of antiretroviral drugs that cost as little as four dollars per mother can reduce mother-to-infant HIV transmission by a third or more. Yet large parts of sub-Saharan Africa do not enjoy a stable supply of pharmaceuticals. We should be treating sexually transmitted diseases which, left untreated, increase HIV transmission rates. Allowing African countries to make or purchase their own pharmaceutical drugs through compulsory licensing and parallel import proposals can save many lives, but have been opposed by the big drug companies…. In exchange for loans from the World Bank and the IMF, these institutions have imposed structural adjustment policies on developing countries. These export-oriented economic models undermine the public sector and health services in ways that are detrimental to controlling HIV/AIDS. Debt relief is therefore a necessary component of any strategy addressing HIV/AIDS.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020 or (202) 332-5055; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167