The head of the International AIDS
Society (IAS) says concern over a new strain of flu or the current economic
crisis should not distract from the long-term fight against HIV/AIDS.
Julio Mantaner is calling the World Health Assembly members, meeting in Geneva this
week, to meet their commitments on the epidemic. From Vancouver, Canada, he says
the gains made against AIDS must not be lost.
"We have over the last several years
made significant progress with regard to the fight against HIV at a global
level. It is clear that we failed to meet original targets, but despite that,
if you look at the number of people receiving anti-retroviral therapy in low
and middle income countries, we have gone from…half a million people around the
end of 2003 to over three million people
by the end of 2007," he says.
Three million still too few
need to recognize more being are being infected every day by a factor of nearly
two than the number of people accessing anti-retroviral therapy," he says.
IAS president says there's a momentum now in the fight against HIV/AIDS that
and foremost, anti-retroviral therapy is saving lives of people…. Second…it is
preserving the social network, the family structure…that is so severely
compromised by HIV and AIDS," he says.
addressing HIV/AIDS has spurred health officials to do more about other health
problems as well, such as TB and malaria. Mantaner says, "We have seen a
strengthening of child and maternal health. We have seen improvements in sexual
health…and primary care. And all of these are critical."
possible the disease can be controlled. "The WHO (World Health Organization)
has estimated that within 30 to 50 years of treating everybody that is infected
with HIV, using a hypothetical scenario, we could see the control of HIV. What
they call HIV elimination," he says.
Other concerns could distract from AIDS
Mantaner says, 'We need to put things
into the proper perspective. No doubt that SARS,Avian Flu or whatever new flu
or any other epidemic that may show up the day after tomorrow…is something that
we need to respond to. But it cannot be at the expense of a proven, established
killer," he says.
is important to detect emerging infectious diseases and epidemics. But the IAS
leaders says, "If we take away resources from an established epidemic…to deal
with the next new potential epidemic…we're (doing) ourselves a very serious
Three decades of AIDS
HIV/AIDS epidemic is about 30 years old and Mantaner is worried that donor
nations may be growing weary of battling the disease. Plus, there's the global
recession and concern over the A-H1N1 flu.
our biggest fear. That at a time of competing needs or hypothetical
epidemics…national or international donors, multi-lateral donors are losing
their interest…. This is a long-term battle." he says.
praising the United States for being a leader in that battle, Mantaner is
somewhat disappointed with President Obama's proposed funding for AIDS-related
program. He says the funding falls short of campaign promises.
on that same note, we would like to remind people that the leaders of the G8
countries, including my own prime minister in Canada, have failed to deliver
according to their promises. And all we are asking is that they refocus their
efforts, meet their commitments," he says.
If commitments are not met?
"History is going to
judge us very harshly. We've been distracted by the epidemic of the day without
recognizing that we have a killer within our midst that we can control," he