03 August 2009

IAS Applauds SA Commitment to Treatment Scale Up

IAS Applauds South African Government for Commitment to Dramatically Scale Up HIV Treatment and Urges All Countries to Meet Their HIV/AIDS Commitments

New Evidence Presented in Cape Town Shows Dramatic Reductions in AIDS and Non-AIDS Mortality and Morbidity with Earlier Treatment

31 July 2009 (Cape Town, South Africa) - The International AIDS Society (IAS) today applauded the South African government for moving quickly to consider a more aggressive approach to scaling up provision of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people living with HIV across the country, in the wake of strong evidence of individual and community benefits of earlier treatment presented at the 5th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention, held two weeks ago in Cape Town. The South African Health Council is reviewing its ART roll-out plans over the coming weeks.

Recent reports from WHO and UNAIDS on the global AIDS pandemic have indicated that substantial increases in HIV investments over the past several years have expanded access to ART and HIV prevention interventions, reducing AIDS-related morbidity, mortality and HIV incidence in many high-burden countries. The success of the global response to AIDS has also catalyzed increased funding for tuberculosis and malaria.

Evidence presented at the 5th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention, held two weeks ago in Cape Town, demonstrated dramatic reductions in TB and malaria incidence in HIV-positive individuals. Furthermore, a number of presentations urged that universal provision of antiretroviral therapy (ART) to people living with HIV would have a major impact on reducing HIV transmission, in addition to keeping people alive, well and productive in their communities.

IAS President Dr. Julio Montaner noted, "The evidence is absolutely clear. We must treat people earlier, and we must achieve universal access to ART for all people living with HIV who need it. Future generations will judge how quickly the global community responds to this urgent priority. We must move from an emergency response to a sustainably financed plan to control the HIV epidemic within a generation."

At their July 2005 summit in Gleneagles, G8 leaders committed to universal access to HIV prevention, care and treatment interventions by 2010, commitments which all UN Member States committed to at the end of that year. However, progress on these commitments was noticeably absent from this year's G8 communiqué, and most countries are not on target to meet universal access goals.

A report released by Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF) immediately prior to the Cape Town conference noted that delays, logistical failures and reductions in HIV financing are already having an impact on the availability of antiretroviral (ARV) drug supplies and other medical commodities. The report provided details of stock-outs of ARVs and other medical commodities in six African countries.

"G8 nations have committed billions of dollars in economic stimulus packages and bailouts for the very institutions that triggered this recession, while AIDS and other health care priorities have diminished on the political agenda", said Dr Montaner. "HIV is not in recession, and greater investments in HIV and other public health priorities are required from the international community, particularly given that ART is now known to have preventive as well as therapeutic benefits." He added, "Health is a fundamental prerequisite of global development, not a fringe benefit which can be cut during difficult economic times."
About the IAS

The IAS is the world's independent association of HIV professionals, with over 14,000 members in 188 countries working at all levels of the global response to HIV/AIDS. IAS members represent scientists, clinicians, public health, policy experts and community practitioners on the frontlines of the epidemic. The IAS is the lead organizer of the biennial International AIDS Conference and the IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention.

Ends

For more information:
Lindsey Rodger (Communications Officer)
International AIDS Society
Geneva, Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 710 0832
Email: media@iasociety.org

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