In anticipation of the upcoming 15th International AIDS Conference which begins Sunday, July 11th, AIDS advocates from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) the largest AIDS organization in the United States, which operates free treatment clinics in the US, Africa and Central America, hosted a press conference today in Bangkok to unveil their plans for advocacy, activism and protests throughout the weeklong AIDS conference to highlight the pressing need for increased access to life-saving anti-retroviral therapy (ARV) worldwide.
At the press conference, AHF vowed to join respected Thai AIDS activists from the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (TNP+) and other advocates from around the world in demanding accountability and action on treatment access at the ‘Access for All” AIDS treatment rally and march on Sunday afternoon July 11 just prior to the opening ceremonies of the conference.
During the Barcelona AIDS conference two years ago, AHF and the international AIDS coalition, AIDS Therapeutic Treatment Now (ATTN), spearheaded the similar-themed ‘March for Life’ in which the ‘Barcelona Declaration,’ which called for stepped up funding and treatment access for 2 million people in the developing world, was first introduced. AIDS Advocates to Introduce Bangkok ‘Treatment Access Pledge’ During ConferenceIn a separate action, AHF advocates will officially unveil the centerpiece of their intended AIDS advocacy actions planned for the week in a press conference set for Sunday morning. They and AIDS activists from the international advocacy coalition AIDS Therapeutic Treatment Now (ATTN) will introduce the Bangkok 2004 ‘Treatment Access Pledge.’
“In 2002, we called for stepped up funding and access to life-saving ARV treatment for 2 million people in the developing world when we introduced the ‘Barcelona Declaration,” said Terri Ford, AHF’s Director of Advocacy and a member of ATTN. “This year, through the Bangkok ‘Treatment Access Pledge’ we will call for conference participants – and in particular, AIDS drug manufacturers – to fully commit to this year’s conference theme of ‘Access for All.’ Throughout the conference, we will seek out pharmaceutical companies to sign on to, and honor, our ‘Treatment Access Pledge’ and commit to ‘stand down’ on patent enforcement in resource-poor countries so that life-saving HIV/AIDS meds can truly get to those in need.”
The Bangkok ‘Treatment Action Pledge’ states:
- All rich nations should pledge to use generics in HIV/AIDS treatment scale-up plans in aid to poor countries;
- All drug manufacturers should pledge to ‘stand down’ in defense of AIDS patents in the developing world;
- All resource-poor countries should pledge to eliminate bureaucratic barriers to AIDS treatment;
- The World Health Organization and other stakeholders should pledge to maintain and guarantee international safety standards for AIDS generics.
AHF to Support Thai Activists on Thai/US Free Trade Agreement
In support of and solidarity with Thai activists, AIDS Healthcare Foundation today also announced its opposition to the inclusion of drug patents in the Free Trade Agreement currently being negotiated between Thailand and the United States. “The pharmaceutical industry, the most profitable industry in the world, simply does NOT need additional protection on patents for AIDS drugs,” said AHF’s Ford. “This protection of patents would hinder generic production and further limit access to much-needed life-saving medications to the people who most need them.”
AHF, Other AIDS Advocates to Press US to Expand Number of Asian Countries Eligible for PEPFAR Funding
Last week (just one week before worldwide media attention began focusing on the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok) US government officials announced that Vietnam would become the fifteenth country – and first Asian country – to be eligible to part of President Bush’s $15 billion dollar Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
However, this well-intentioned program has fallen far short of its goals of getting 500,000 people in the developing world on ARV treatment by September 2004. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation web cast, fewer than 1,300 people worldwide are on life-saving ARV treatment via PEPFAR-funded programs to date.
By comparison, AHF, a US-based non-profit medical provider, which currently operates treatment clinics in South Africa, Uganda and Honduras, currently treats 2,000 patients in the developing world via its AHF Global Immunity program – and has done so with NO PEPFAR funding.
“To have only one country in Asia receiving aid from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is simply not acceptable,” said Michael Weinstein, AHF’s President in a statement from Los Angeles before leaving to attend the conference. “Particularly when a country like Thailand has a significant need – more than 312,000 people living with AIDS, yet fewer than 50,000 of whom are on treatment – and has both the infrastructure and determination to rapidly scale up delivery of such life-saving AIDS treatment. American funding and AIDS treatment efforts such as PEPFAR must look beyond the fifteen countries so that there truly is ‘Access for All’ to these life-saving anti-retroviral therapies.”