A multilateral strategy to combat HIV/AIDS and the underlying causes of global poverty is missing from the agenda of the meeting of the eight richest nations (G8), according to the Catholic Institute for International Relations. The G8 summit in Evian from 1 to 3 June will look at ways of fighting poverty, according to a statement from host nation France. But HIV/AIDS, which is leading to increased poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and many other countries in the South, will not be discussed. CIIR southern Africa joint programme manager Ron Norgard said: "HIV/AIDS should be high on the G8's agenda. It's a serious development issue: HIV/AIDS is preventing whole regions of the world from developing and climbing out of poverty." Recent pledges of large increases in funding for the fight against the virus - such as the US$15 billion just pledged by US president George Bush - show that G8 leaders appear to be realising that HIV/AIDS poses a major threat to the world. But CIIR believes additional funding must go through the multilateral Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria rather than be administered by individual countries, which is the US's preferred way of working. A multilateral approach avoids funding being linked to conditions that favour the donor rather than the recipient. Ninety-five per cent of people living with HIV/AIDS cannot obtain life-saving anti-retroviral drugs. G8 leaders should take this opportunity to rethink trade rules that make these drugs too expensive. Zack Makari of CIIR-partner the Namibia Network of AIDS Service Organisations said: "AIDS is destroying whole nations in southern Africa. We cannot become rich and productive nations if our workforce is dying or too weak to work. We need access to anti-retroviral drugs urgently and the richest nations should ensure this is possible." That is why in-depth reform of international trade structures and aid and debt regimes is vital if the G8 want to tackle global poverty effectively, according to CIIR. Norgard said: "Promises to tackle world poverty sound hollow when trade rules conspire to keep poor countries poor; when debt relief schemes are designed to ensure that rich lenders are paid rather than to relieve the debt burden; and when aid levels fail to amount to even a fraction of the 75 billion US dollars used to fight the war against Iraq."
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