Shifting from ‘Fighting AIDS’ to ‘Ending AIDS’ will need crucial commitments

Washington D.C. – As the International AIDS Conference wrapped up today, international aid agency Oxfam praised the advocates and the scientists who have ignited momentum to shift from “fighting AIDS” to “ending AIDS,” and urged governments and the pharmaceutical industry to make this vision a reality.

Increasingly effective medicines, new treatments for those who develop resistance or severe side effects, and even a path for a cure were all the good news at the Conference. But to make this reality, pharmaceutical companies donor governments must now do their part.
“Scientific advances have shown the way for effective prevention and for treatment that saves lives and turns the deadly disease into a chronic condition,” said Dr. Mohga Kamal-Yanni, senior health advisor for Oxfam. “But pharmaceutical companies are dragging their feet and not granting licenses to public bodies, such as the Medicine Patent Pool, that would enable production of affordable HIV treatment to all people who need it in developing countries.”

While US Secretary of State Clinton announced a substantial financial commitment on the part of the United States to end AIDS, her US Trade Representative is negotiating a trade deal that will in fact undermine such efforts. By pushing for enhanced monopoly protection on new medicines, including medicines to treat HIV and AIDS, US efforts will drive up the cost of medicines for people living in poverty, and the governments and agencies that seek to help them.  

The financial crisis has been blamed for a decrease in global funding for HIV and health programs that forced the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to announce last year that it wasn’t able to finance any new funding proposals until 2014. This year, the Global Fund is discussing a new funding model that could lead to severe steps back in country ownership and aid effectiveness, forcing poor countries to go for what they can get rather than what they actually need.

“We cannot end AIDS without global investment in massive scale up of appropriate prevention and treatment efforts especially through the Global Fund,” said Kamal-Yanni. “We hope that the Global Fund board will reject top down approaches and instead maintain the country ownership principal that the Fund prides itself on and truly delivers for those in need.”

The initiative to have HIV free generation by stopping mother to child transmission is to be applauded. Yet the lack of commitment of donors and governments to treating women before and after birth is appalling. Furthermore, the lack of high-level political commitment from country leaders to remove prejudice, stigma and discrimination against the most vulnerable groups threatens to undermine the goal of Ending AIDS.

New World Bank president Jim Kim made a splash at the Conference, committing the Bank to play a crucial role in ending AIDS by focusing on what the bank does best: building health systems. Oxfam believes investing in health system, such as infra structure, health workers, drug supply chains and health information systems, is a critical prerequisite to ending AIDS.

“The World Bank should fulfill this promise by enabling developing countries – with help from other donors— to invest in free public health care and in supporting community based care,” said Kamal-Yanni.

Notes to editors

Contact information

For further inquiry:
Laura Rusu in Washington, DC +1 202-459-3739

Related links

International AIDS Conference 2012

Mohga Kamal Yanni's blog on UNITAID decision to set up a patent pool for HIV medicines

StopAIDSCampaign animation: What is a patent pool?

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria