Harassing governments, laboratories, United Nations agencies, collaborating with other associations of patients, the North/South Commission is present on all fronts in its demands that poor countries have access to treatments.
For more that fifteen years, anti-AIDS policies in poor countries, primarily dictated by international financial backers, have focused on prevention while ignoring the need to develop systems of medical coverage for the infected population.
Rather than challenge the economic bases of this approach, political authorities have preferred to neglect public health, taking for granted the exorbitant cost of treatment, refusing to implement measures necessary for the strengthening of health systems, and prohibiting countries from setting up local production or from importing treatments essential for the survival of their populations.
In fifteen years, millions of people have died and tens of millions have been infected, with the epidemic progressing exponentially. The wager of financial backers, led by the World Bank and the European Union, assumed that they would manage to control the situation at low cost, but it is a failure for which they bear responsibility. And the drop in life expectancy, dramatic economic repercussions and the threat of certain particularly virulent strains of virus has ended up by shaking this cynicism.
The announcement on May 11, 2000, that consideration would be given to reducing the prices of medications meant that for the first time, the family of United Nations agencies as well as certain pharmaceutical companies acknowledged both the need to make antiretroviral drugs available world wide, and the prohibitive cost of medications.
During the World Health Assembly last May, the countries hardest hit by the epidemic made their position clear: access to treatments, including antiretrovirals, is indispensable for their populations and must be established on a permanent basis. That means that pharmaceutical laboratories must yield to public health priorities and adapt their prices to the countries’ payment capacities or allow these countries to produce and import treatments at lower cost in accordance with legal stipulations included in international agreements.
Northern countries, particularly the United States and the European Union must stop subjecting poor countries to pressure and blackmail and must help to finance the development of access to treatments.
Programs for access to treatments, which are multiplying in poor countries, all confront the same obstacles :
– Unaffordable prices of medications that deplete allocated funds and prevent health authorities from reinforcing other aspects of health care coverage.
The lack of political and financial support from northern countries and international organizations