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Challenging the Status Quo

By José M. Zuniga

May 2004

José M. Zuniga

The International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (IAPAC) secured almost 40 percent of our 2003 annual budget from pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies, through unrestricted educational grants, to advance third-party medical and patient education initiatives. Our other revenue sources include membership dues (individual and institutional), government and foundation grants, and private donations.

I describe our diversified funding sources in introducing this IAPAC Monthly supplement because it is often thought by some that accepting money from the pharmaceutical industry is akin to accepting to wear a muzzle. Not so. For as long as I have led IAPAC, this association has adhered to a principle of challenging the status quo (especially where it contributes to unnecessary suffering and hastened deaths), no matter the repercussion. And that principle has guided our advocacy efforts around AIDS drug access in resource-limited countries of the developing world.

The challenge in the United States today -- although not equal in statistical proportion -- is equal from the human perspective because, as of April 7, 2004, more than 1,200 people living with HIV/AIDS find themselves on AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) waiting lists nationwide. The system is buckling under two pressure points -- not enough money, and high prescription drug prices. Thus IAPAC's first summit examining the pharmacoeconomics of AIDS drug access in the United States -- a day-long gathering the association hosted last month in Washington, DC, to discuss both the need for increased federal and state funding for ADAPs and the pressing need to address the contentious issue of AIDS drug pricing.

As Mark D. Wagner's summary article and the accompanying presenter transcripts will attest, IAPAC brought together a diverse group of individuals from various walks of life to engage in a very serious, and long overdue, dialogue around what may mushroom into a full-blown crisis of even greater proportions within months. I do not wish to reiterate the points made so eloquently by my fellow summit presenters, except to echo the call from IAPAC member and Colorado physician, Benjamin Young, that this is a subject on which physicians and allied healthcare professionals cannot remain silent. Though they may fall outside the traditional clinical purview, public and fiscal policy decisions become the domain of medical professionals when they create barriers to fulfilling an oath to provide the best possible treatment for their patients. As Young put it, "physicians and other healthcare providers have the moral obligation to become involved in this issue."

Healthcare is a human right. IAPAC founding member Jonathan Mann argued that when that right is challenged, those of us who work to provide healthcare must act. I am proud to say that your association continues to keep that principle at the forefront of our activities.

José M. Zuniga is President/CEO of the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, and Editor-in-Chief of the IAPAC Monthly.


Back to the May 2004 Supplement issue of IAPAC Monthly.




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