Swiss urged to focus more on treatment of Aids

Médecins Sans Frontières says more Aids treatment is needed Keystone

The Swiss section of the aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has urged the government to focus more on treating Aids in developing countries.

This content was published on December 1, 2004

The Swiss government said on Wednesday that it had revised its Aids strategy over the past year, putting more emphasis on treatment rather than prevention work.

In a statement coinciding with World Aids Day, MSF said Aids-prevention efforts were very important, but it urged the Swiss government and Swiss non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to do more with regard to treatment.

It commented that combination therapy based on antiretroviral drugs could prolong the lives of people with HIV. It added that HIV/Aids could now be treated as a chronic illness.

MSF said more needed to be done by industrialised nations to ensure that developing countries - where 95 per cent of HIV-positive people live - had access to drugs.

The aid agency pointed out that it was not good enough for rich nations to blame a lack of medical infrastructure and qualified personnel in poorer countries as obstacles to treatment getting through.

Aids treatment

Walter Fust, director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), said more had been done in the treatment of Aids over the past 12 months.

“We have increasingly dealt with the treatment of Aids, but the problem we face is the local health system in Third World countries,” he said.

“Psychological and social care and support are vital if you want to ensure that the sick get well and are reintegrated in society.”

MSF criticised governments and pharmaceutical companies for not offering cheaper drugs, maintaining that this was possible even under difficult conditions in developing countries.

It argued that its Antiretroviral Therapy (ARV) project had treated 23,000 patients in 27 developing countries since 2001 and had been very successful.

MSF said ARV therapy should become an integral part of the work of medical NGOs and that drugs costs should be lowered.

“The pharmaceutical industry in Switzerland is more open-minded [than one would think]. And the experiences with generic drugs produced at lower cost in other countries, such as India, were very good,” said Fust.

He added that it was essential that the World Trade Organization drug agreement allowing Aids drugs to be produced in other countries at lower cost be extended.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

20 million people have died from Aids since 1981.
8,000 people die from the disease every day.
40 million people are infected with the HIV virus.
Of the six million people suffering from Aids, only 400,000 have access to treatment.

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