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International News

World Health Organization Hopes to Double AIDS Treatment in Latin America

March 20, 2003

The World Health Organization hopes to double the number of people receiving AIDS treatment in Latin America by 2005, Bernard Schwartlander, head of WHO's HIV/AIDS department, said on March 12. Schwartlander said WHO would like to see 400,000 people receiving a cocktail of AIDS drugs by 2005. About 1 million people in Latin America are infected with HIV, but only 200,000 receive the life-extending drugs.

Brazil provides AIDS drugs free to anyone who needs them, and about 125,000 Brazilians now receive the AIDS cocktail. Annual AIDS deaths in Brazil have fallen from 11,024 to 4,136 in just four years, thanks largely to the free medicine. But Brazil makes its own AIDS drugs, ignoring patents issued before 1997, when the country signed an intellectual property law to join the World Trade Organization. Brazil also threatened to break more recent patents unless drug companies granted large discounts on the AIDS drugs they produce. They complied, and Brazil has so far respected newer patents.

Schwartlander was vague about the source of the money to pay for the treatments in this largely poor continent. "The increase [in coverage] depends fundamentally on the governments of the countries and funding from institutions like the World Bank and the Global Fund," said Schwartlander.

Paulo Teixeira, the coordinator of Brazil's AIDS program, said WHO had failed to use its muscle to reduce the price of AIDS drugs. "Unity among different countries has shown itself to be fundamental in reducing the price of medications. However, these results would be very much better if there was clear leadership from the WHO and other international bodies," Teixeira said. "From the multilateral organization there is a lack of action on the question of patents, regional funds, local drug production and quality control for generics," he said.

Back to other CDC news for March 20, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Associated Press
03.12.03; Michael Astor

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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