Thailand: Opening of Global AIDS Summit in Bangkok to Be Marked by Protest
July 6, 2004
Activists said today that the opening of the 15th International AIDS Conference in Thailand this weekend will be a target of protest. Government inactivity -- particularly by the United States -- political obstruction and free-trade pacts are threatening to worsen the AIDS crisis, especially in Asia, according to a coalition of Thai and U.S. activists.Adapted from:
While the United States is, by far, the largest donor to the AIDS fight in developing countries, it has largely adopted a unilateral approach. In 2002, President Bush promised $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS, but the first portion of $350 million was only released in February 2004. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria is to receive just $1 billion of the money.
"The U.S. ... is proposing a 64 percent reduction in its funding from the year 2004 to 2005 for the global [AIDS] fund," said Aisa Russel, director of the U.S.-based group Health Gap. But the United States is not solely to blame, as most nations appear to be suffering from funding fatigue since the last summit, Russel said.
A planned free trade pact with the United States could destroy Thailand's groundbreaking generic antiretroviral program, said Kamon Uppakaew of the Thai network of People Living with HIV/AIDS. "The free trade agreement could potentially destroy the lives of people with AIDS who are enjoying their treatment now," Kamon said. In addition, activists worry that the U.S. policy promoting abstinence instead of condom use threatens funding for some groups. Activists have already protested the conference's $1,000 registration fee, which they said will prevent thousands of key voices of the epidemic from being heard.
Agence France Presse