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International AIDS Conference Expected to Stress Patient Care - 2002-07-01

With no cure or vaccine available for AIDS, many non-governmental organizations are stressing better care for the estimated 40 million people infected with HIV, the AIDS virus. The NGOs will make their case at the 14th International AIDS Conference that begins July 7 in Barcelona, Spain.

Many non-governmental organizations are on the frontlines in the battle against the AIDS pandemic. They have been actively lobbying donor nations for more funds so prevention and treatment programs can be provided in the developing world. They complain that most of the donor funding has gone to prevention programs with little going to those living with HIV.

Richard Burzynski is the head of the International AIDS Services Organization (ICASO) which represents many non-governmental organizations. He says the lack of a cure or a vaccine is no excuse to allow millions of people to suffer.

He says he hopes the 14th International AIDS Conference, known as AIDS 2002, will build on the success of the last conference in Durban, South Africa. "What Durban did pronounce and bring to [the] front and center of [everyone's] agenda is that it is not acceptable to have so few people having access to so many drugs - to so many treatments, to so many medications that are saving lives and improving the quality of people living with HIV in so much of the developed world," Mr. Burzynski said.

The theme of the latest conference is "Knowledge and Commitment for Action," and Mr. Burzynski would like to see the emphasis on action. "You are going to see this conference with a very strong advocacy message from so many people saying that it is no longer good enough for us to say we are going to do something," he said. "We want to see some of those action plans."

Since the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban two years ago, the U.N. General Assembly has held a special session on HIV/AIDS, and a new organization has been created to help fight the disease - The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

"Many people now recognize that, you know, it is going to take the NGO's," Mr Burzynski added. "It is going to take more government action and it is going to take more private sector involvement in order for us to have the kind of response concomitant [associated] with the type of problem that is in front of us."

AIDS 2002 runs from July 7-12. In 2004, the conference will move from the West to the East, when it will be held in Thailand. Many health experts predict the AIDS pandemic is about to explode in Asia, especially in India, China, and Russia.