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Program To Provide Three Million People With AIDS Drugs In Jeopardy, Says UN Envoy - 2004-03-04

The UN Special Envoy for HIV / AIDS in Africa says the program to provide three million people with anti-retroviral drugs by 2005 is in jeopardy.

Stephen Lewis says many donor nations have been unwilling to contribute money to fund the World Health Organization plan, known as the “Three By Five” initiative. He says if the initiative fails there will be no excuses left, only the mass graves of the betrayed.

From New York, Mr. Lewis spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about why he says he is “sounding the alarm.” He describes the program as “without question the most dramatic, important, compelling initiative that we’ve had out of this horrific AIDS pandemic over the last several years. If you can get three million people into treatment by 2005, there are only 300,000 presently in treatment all over the world, then you would actually begin to break the back of the pandemic. You’d give people hope; you would encourage prevention.” Mr. Lewis says the initiative needs “a relatively small amount of money, $200 million.”

When asked why the WHO does have the money, replied, “For whatever reason, the major donor countries, particularly the countries of the G-7 and the other large countries in Europe in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), have not been willing to fund the initiative around AIDS on many fronts. They haven’t made the investments themselves on a bilateral basis. They haven’t given anywhere near the appropriate amounts to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. And now they are behaving in a begrudging manner towards the one initiative which could have the effect of prolonging millions of lives.”

The UN envoy has met with many world leaders and officials about AIDS funding. In describing the reasons he’s been given for a lack of funding, he says, “I will admit to you that I have not heard any reasons that are credible. They don’t feel they have to give reasons. They just refuse to make the appropriate amounts of money available.” He describes the situation as “inexplicable.” Mr. Lewis says, “If the three by five fails, as it surely will without the dollars, then there are no more excuses left, no rationalizations to hide behind, no murky slanders to justify indifference. There will be only the mass graves of the betrayed.”

Click above links to listen to interview with Stephen Lewis.