Aids activists call for action

More than 15,000 people attended the conference

The Swiss Aids Federation has urged governments to turn words into deeds in the global fight against the disease.

This content was published on July 12, 2002 - 16:01

At the end of an international Aids conference in Barcelona, Swiss participants said governments would now have to act on the promises they had made.

"The message has been heard that prevention and treatment have to be provided for all affected people around the globe," said Jan Suter, who heads the federation's international department.

Some 15,000 doctors, public health officials, researchers and non-governmental organisations attended the forum - the biggest of its kind.

New focus

In Barcelona, activists turned their attention from drugs prices to western government funding of disease control efforts.

They are urging rich countries to commit $10 billion a year to the UN-sponsored global fund to fight Aids, malaria and tuberculosis.

"Many governments have scaled down their response to HIV/Aids," explained Suter.

"There has been a lot of criticism about the funding policy of governments towards the new global fund. Pharmaceutical companies have accepted the reality and have lowered prices - but not enough."

Political agenda

Meanwhile, Ruth Rutman, director of the Swiss Aids Federation, said it had been a good follow-up to the UN conference in Durban two years ago.

"In Durban, awareness was raised and now the message is to place HIV/Aids on top of the political agenda. We also need to scale up human and financial resources to increase research in vaccines and other new treatments."

"It is now up to the governments of various countries to go to the negotiating table with the pharmaceutical organisations and try and cut a deal. We had a good example a few days ago when Caribbean countries struck a deal with seven or eight pharmaceutical companies to reduce prices."

End the stigma

The former South African president, Nelson Mandela, wrapped up the forum with a call for urgent action to halt the spread of the disease.

"Aids is a war against humanity," Mandela said, "and is claiming more victims than all wars and natural disasters."

He and the former US president, Bill Clinton, have also issued a plea to end the stigma of HIV.

Switzerland saw an eight per cent increase in the number of positive HIV tests last year - the first rise in eight years.

"We're concerned about the increase," said Suter. "We will have to scale up our prevention efforts and intensify our target group programmes, especially those aimed at young people."

by Vincent Landon

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