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AIDS Konferenz Melbourne Trauer
Image: Reuters

AIDS drugs still unaffordable

July 21, 2014

The international medical organization Doctors without Borders has said that medicines for treating AIDS are still too expensive for many patients. This is especially true for victims living in developed countries.


The organization revealed the results of a study at the World AIDS Conference taking place in Melbourne. The charity said that victims in poorer countries were much less affected by the spiraling prices, spending only around 100 euros ($135) a year on drugs to treat the disease, but that pharmaceutical companies were charging patients in developed countries huge amounts.

"Today, we know exactly which tools we need to keep the virus within limits in patients living with HIV," Jennifer Cohn, the medical director of the access campaign for Doctors without Borders said. "But in most cases, the prices are too high. We need to remove barriers on patents and provide more finances.”

No sign of a cure

AIDS researchers also said there were no imminent signs of a cure for the disease. Steven Deeks, researcher at the University of California, said that developing a cure for those already infected could take "many, many years."

Scientists had been optimistic after an infant responded to treatment and appeared to have no traces of the virus without antiretroviral treatment. But recently, the virus showed up again on the so-called "Mississippi" baby, leading scientists to abandon the hope that they were on the path to a cure.

Need for new laws

Activists at the World AIDS conference accused national governments of being responsible for the increase in the number of AIDS victims because of their laws.

"The cruel reality is that in every region of the world, stigma and discrimination continue to be the main barriers to effective access to health," said Nobel Laureate Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, who co-discovered the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

A recent United Nations report said that 79 countries had laws that criminalize same sex practices. Uganda and Nigeria have recently passed anti-gay laws and India has restored a previous law which bans sodomy.

Experts say that HIV spreads stealthily when, for example, sex workers, gays and intravenous drug users are criminalized. Kene Esom, a Nigerian gay rights activist said these laws sometimes crippled efforts to spread the word about safe sex and improve access to life-saving drugs.

Western countries donated 14 billion euros last year to fight AIDS in developing countries. However, Former Australian high court justice Michael Kirby said: "they cannot expect taxpayers in other countries to shell out…huge funds for antiretroviral drugs if they simply refuse to reform their own laws and policies to help their own citizens." If Western governments heed Kirby’s words, future funds to developing countries fighting AIDS may be subject to several conditions.

mg/pfd (AFP, dpa)

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