2012 this year’s World Day of AIDS is to “Getting to Zero.” This means zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination against people with HIV and zero AIDS-related deaths.
In recent years there have been many advances: AIDS is no longer a death sentence. When the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) embarked on this struggle in 2000 – providing treatment to a small number of people in Thailand, South Africa and Cameroon – very few had access to treatment in developing countries.
Skeptical looks believed it would not be possible to provide transcontinental treatment because they were very expensive and fragile health systems, but events have shown otherwise. Today in developing countries more than eight million people with HIV receive transcontinental treatment, allowing them to live healthy and productive lives.
Last year new scientific evidence – arising from investigations of Argentine doctor Julio Montaner and his team, based in Canada – showed that patients starting treatment early on can reduce HIV transmission. We also know that with treatment, can reduce the chances of transmission of HIV-positive mothers to their children by 95 percent.
Moreover, at least on paper, there is political commitment: the international community has agreed to increase HIV treatment to reach the millions of people still do not get it.
But there is still work to do: just a little less than half of those who need treatment receive it. However, the goal of “getting to zero” can be achieved if countries keep their promises to do more to end AIDS, although progress in this struggle is threatened constantly by the inconsistent policies of governments. In recent years, funds for this cause have been affected, even before the global economic crisis.
Affordable transcontinental therapies are the mainstay of the global response to HIV / AIDS. Thanks to competition from the generic industry from India, the price of medicines for HIV have fallen 99 percent since 2000. More than 80 percent of HIV medicines purchased by donors come from Indian generic industry. MSF also buys in India most transcontinental used to treat 220,000 people in 23 countries worldwide.
But inconsistent policies make it more difficult to succeed in the fight against AIDS and threaten vital generics. In MSF, we are particularly concerned about the Agreement Trans-Pacific Partnership, an initiative led by the United States and nine other countries, including developing countries such as Peru and Vietnam.
The negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership are being conducted in secret, but draft text leaked show that America is asking stifle aggressive forecasts production of less expensive generic drugs. United States is pushing for tougher rules that will sit for generic producers out of the market and raise prices.
These policies threaten the affordability and access to medicines for AIDS and other diseases. These medicines can make the difference between life and death for people living with the disease in developing countries.
The Association Agreement Trans-Pacific has other implications in the fight against this disease. The ability of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to provide treatment to the seven million people in need depends on the sustained provision of affordable generic drugs. Some of the provisions of the treaty are against global health programs that support the signatory countries.
The international community must remember the importance of protecting access to generic medicines, particularly for patients with HIV, and ensure that trade negotiations are not against public health. Reach zero will not be possible otherwise.