Thu, Jul 15, 2010 - Page 7 News List

New global AIDS focus is budgets

TREATMENT 2.0The latest round of initiatives aim to extend treatment where it is most needed. Activists say more efficient care can save lives and money

REUTERS , WASHINGTON

New AIDS plans released by the UN and the US government on Tuesday stress smarter, targeted spending as a way to keep up the fight against the pandemic during a global recession.

Even Bill Gates, the multi-billionaire Microsoft founder who has used his foundation’s fortune to kick-start many an AIDS program, said money is too tight to think of much new spending.

He said he wouldl highlight programs that get the most bang for the buck when he makes a keynote speech to an international AIDS meeting in Vienna next week.

The UN AIDS program (UNAIDS) released what it called “a radically simplified HIV treatment platform called Treatment 2.0 that could decrease the number of AIDS-related deaths drastically.”

It called on drug companies to produce AIDS pills that are less toxic and tests to diagnose human immunodeficiency virus infection that are easier to use.

Cocktails of HIV drugs can help stop people from infecting others, and UNAIDS said treating everyone who needs it could reduce new infections by a third. Out of 33.4 million people globally who are infected with HIV, 5 million get drugs.

Non-drug-related costs of treatment, such as hospitalization and monitoring, are twice the cost of the drugs and the UNAIDS plain aims to cut these expenses in half.

US President Barack Obama presented a similar plan, asking states and federal agencies to find ways to cut new infections by 25 percent, get more patients treated quickly and educate Americans about the deadly and incurable virus.

There is “no question that there is not a big pot of new money,” USHealth and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. “We can’t expect this to be solved by a huge infusion of new resources.”

AIDS has killed 25 million people since the early 1980s.

World leaders set this year as a deadline for universal access to treatment for all HIV/AIDS patients who need it. Most campaigners say this target will be missed but global health organizations are using it as a focus for new ideas on fighting the epidemic while funding is squeezed due to budget cuts.

Paul de Lay, a UNAIDS deputy director, said through innovation, the cost of AIDS care could be reduced and AIDS drugs could reach more people who need them.

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