Global calls to speed up Aids response
Doctors Without Borders has called for a doubling of the pace of AIDS treatment and funds to reach all those who need treatment.
The call came as some 25,000 people, including celebrities, scientists and HIV victims gathered in the US capital Washington DC to call for a jumpstart in the global response to the three-decade AIDS epidemic.
Deaths and infections are down in the parts of the world most ravaged by the disease, while the number of people on treatment has risen 20 percent from 2010 to 2011, reaching eight million people in needy countries.
However, this is only about half the people who should be on treatment worldwide, suggesting much more remains to be done.
Rwanda has managed to register universal coverage of Anti-retroviral treatment (ART) at 94 percent from less than 30 percent in the last 5 years, according to Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the Coordinator of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Care and Treatment Department.
More than 100,000 people in Rwanda are on anti-retroviral treatment which is given free of charge. The country also spends an estimated Rwf1 billion on HIV/Aids drugs every year.
The cost of anti-retroviral therapy varies from one patient to another although experts estimate the average cost of therapy at Rwf12, 000 per patient.
Eastern Europe and central Asia are experiencing worsening epidemics, according to reports, while the United States has been unable to curb the rate of new infections in recent years despite a host of new research advances.
More than 34 million people worldwide are living with HIV, a higher number than ever before, and around 30 million have died from AIDS-related causes since the disease first emerged in the 1980s, according to UNAIDS.
The hunt for a cure, which has eluded scientists, will be a hot topic.
HIV co-discoverer and Nobel laureate, Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, announced a new roadmap for scientists in research toward a cure.
Funding is also at a critical juncture, with many nations boosting their domestic spending on the disease while international donations remain flat.
Total worldwide investment in HIV was $16.8 billion last year, an 11 percent rise from 2010, but still far short of the $22-24 billion needed by 2015, according to a UNAIDS report released Wednesday.
Assisting the fundraising effort are a bevy of celebrities in Washington for the conference, including actors Sean Penn and Sharon Stone. Microsoft chairman and noted philanthropist, Bill Gates, will also attend.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called for an “AIDS-free generation” in a landmark 2011 speech, was scheduled to address the conference.
President Barack Obama, is sending a video message and will invite some conference attendees to the White House for talks on Thursday.
Held every two years, the International AIDS Conference returns to the United States for the first time since 1990, after being kept away by laws that barred people with HIV from traveling to the country.
The US ban was formally lifted in 2009, and researchers described fresh optimism in the fight against AIDS on several fronts ahead of the six-day conference that started on Sunday and runs through July 27.
Meanwhile, the World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim at the opening of this year’s International Aids Conference noted that success in the AIDS response depends on partnerships and pledged to strengthen the Bank’s multilateral alliances with UNAIDS, the Global Fund and other partners, including WHO and UNICEF.
Citing Rwanda he said, Governments and their partners are applying AIDS knowledge and resources strategically to beat the epidemic and simultaneously drive a broader anti-poverty agenda.
“Rwanda has used AIDS money and technical expertise from the World Bank, the Global Fund and others to build up its widely admired health insurance system, the mutuelles, and to expand secondary and vocational education,” he observed.
“As Rwanda shows, successful countries have tackled AIDS as a systems problem. They’ve responded to the epidemic by strengthening delivery systems for key social goods, and they’ve integrated those systems to address people’s needs comprehensively.”
“We can end AIDS. We must end AIDS. The challenge we face is great. But as I look out at all of you today, I can actually see the end of AIDS,” he concluded.
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