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Monday, February 20, 2017
Christian Aid calls for urgent action in fight against AIDS
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¬†The new wave of cheaper antiretroviral drugs will not stem the global HIV pandemic unless they are used in tandem with urgent measures to alleviate poverty. That's the stark message from Christian Aid in a landmark report, If not now, when? HIV, drugs and prevention, released to mark World Aids Day 2004. Dr Rachel Baggaley, head of Christian Aid's HIV Unit said: "We are concerned that there are currently two contradictory and confusing messages regarding the HIV pandemic. "The first is that the situation is so far gone in some parts of the world as to be hopeless. The second is that with the introduction of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) HIV can be controlled. "Both these ideas are misleading,' 'There is good news and in certain areas we have seen significant progress. The introduction of cheaper antiretrovirals is a positive move, but we must realise that it is not the sole answer to this crisis. "The dangerously spiralling HIV rates will only be brought under control if there is a committed, multi-pronged attack on the crisis ≠ now ≠ including drug provision, prevention and community care. Countries must also be freed from the burdens of debt and unfair trade rules. "The role of community based organisations, for example, must be enhanced; in many countries they are the only organisations which provide support and counselling to people living with HIV. "With the introduction of antiretroviral drugs, they are assuming an ever greater importance. Without community based carers to help people take ARVs regularly, they risk developing resistance to their drug treatment. "These community organisations must be supported so that the needs and priorities of people living with HIV are met," added Dr Baggaley. "These groups are also indispensable since they put pressure on governments to ensure a steady supply of affordable drugs." The report features the work of Christian Aid's partner, Wola Nani in Cape Town, South Africa, which is vitally important in monitoring clients who are on antiretroviral therapy. If not now, when? also says that the crucial role that poverty plays in the epidemic must be acknowledged and that all HIV policies must incorporate the eradication of poverty." "Poverty is one of the key drivers of this epidemic," said Dr Baggaley. 'Unless we tackle issues of trade, debt and the lack of trained health care workers, we cannot begin to win the battle. Providing drugs without taking account of these issues will not work in the long-term." The overwhelming debts owed by poor countries to wealthy nations make it impossible for some of the countries hardest-hit by HIV to cope. Zambia has one million HIV-positive people but spends 30% more on servicing its debt than on health. Kenya spends US$0.76 per capital on HIV/AIDS and US$12.92 per capital on debt repayments. Christian Aid supports the initiative of the World Health Organisation to get three million people on ARVs by 2005, known as '3 by 5'. Yet by the end of 2004 only 440,000 people are receiving ARVs. Unless the rich countries commit the money necessary this target will remain an unattainable objective. The UN agency for HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS, calculates that US$20 billion each year is needed by 2007 for prevention and care in low and middle-income countries. To date global spending on HIV is a paltry US$4.7 billion annually. The release of If not now, when? coincides with the launch of an exhibition of photographs by the world-renowned photographer, Don McCullin. Life interrupted documents how drug treatment is changing the landscape of HIV. Those fortunate enough to have access to ARVs and community support no longer face the certainty of death; they now have the promise of life.
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