Mbeki stresses commission will continue to review all aspects of AIDS

Keith Alcorn, Keith Alcorn
Published: 05 March 2001

President Mbeki failed to give any signal on widening the availability of antiretroviral drugs at tonight’s opening ceremony of the Thirteenth World AIDS Conference, despite widespread pleas from activists in South Africa.

He insisted that a commission appointed earlier this year will continue to review whether the epidemic in southern Africa differs from the AIDS epidemic in the developed world.

Describing the brief of the commission, President Mbeki said: "The question I asked was ‘Are safe sex, condoms and anti-retroviral drugs a sufficient response to the health crisis we face?’".

The commission will report on the accuracy of current HIV tests by the end of this year, and will also look into the accuracy of surveillance estimates of HIV infection in South Africa.

"In the meantime, we will focus on a sustained public awareness campaign, the reduction of poverty and malnutrition, and a concerted offensive against opportunistic infections. There is no substance to the allegation that this country’s government is hesitating in confronting AIDS", he said.

However UNAIDS chief Peter Piot signalled a more proactive response to demands for treatment access with an assurance that UNAIDS is still looking at lowering the cost of antiretroviral therapy.

"We will utilise existing UN procurement processes to secure anti-HV drugs from all legitimate sources of supply", he told the opening ceremony. He also called on the developed world to give further financial help to fight AIDS in Africa.

"The most basic prevention and care programme will cost $3 billion - ten times more than the amount expected from donors", Mr. Piot said. He called upon the countries of the North to cancel debt interest payments amounting to $15 billion a year.

Speculation in Durban is focussed on the precise meaning of Mr Piot’s promise to seek drugs from all legitimate sources. If UNAIDS is prepared to open up the supply of essential drugs to tenders from generic manufacturers of antiretrovirals, activists believe that bulk procurement could dramatically lower the cost of anti-HIV treatment, and put it in reach of countries like South Africa, provided that debt relief permits greater investment in health care infrastructure.

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

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