Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported yesterday on disruptions in supplies of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in six African countries. Citing the catastrophic consequences of drug shortages on new patients and those already in care, the MSF report called on national governments, donors and their partners to take swift action to address the funding gaps and supply distribution problems hampering access to lifesaving drugs. The six countries cited were the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The report will be the subject of an MSF satellite meeting on Sunday, 19 July entitled, The Emergency Is Not Over: Access to Treatment and the Challenges of Long-Term Survival on Antiretrovirals. A plenary presentation on Tuesday by Dr. Stefano Bertozzi of the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico will focus on financing the long-term response to HIV.IAS 2009 organizers have expressed deep concerns about the impact of funding shortages on access to treatment and will reiterate those concerns in Sunday's opening session, where Treatment Action Campaign's Vuyiseka Dubul will also speak. The interruption of ARVs is potentially life-threatening for those now on treatment, and also poses a serious public health risk from the potential development of resistance. The threat of shortages also complicates the current push to revise normative treatment guidelines on when people living with HIV should begin treatment, which will be another hot topic in Cape Town and will be discussed in a symposium on Monday 20 July. Treatment Action Campaign is also planning a march and rally for Sunday afternoon to call for the resources needed to meet treatment targets in the country.
Webcasts of the opening session and all plenary sessions will be available on www.ias2009.org.