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AFRO-NETS> Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Mon, 14 May 2001



Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Mon, 14 May 2001
-----------------------------------------------

* 'NewsHour' to Feature AIDS in Africa Series This Week
* Bush Pledges US$ 200 Million to Global AIDS Fund, But Critics Call
  Contribution 'Too Little'
* Growing Threat of HIV Drug Resistance Poses Questions for Treatment
  in Africa, Washington Times Reports
* African Rural Labor Force Jeopardized by AIDS, FAO Report Says


--
'NewsHour' to Feature AIDS in Africa Series This Week

Beginning today, PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" will feature a four-
part series on "the crushing impact of AIDS on the people, the cul-
ture and the economies" of Malawi and Botswana. Senior correspondent 
Elizabeth Farnsworth and producer Joanne Elgart of the San Francisco-
based KQED/NewsHour team travelled to "two of Africa's most stricken 
countries" and interviewed government leaders, physicians, caregiv-
ers, volunteers and patients with HIV for the broadcast. They discov-
ered "heartening" news that "real efforts are underway to deal with 
the disease," including work by volunteers. Show Executive Producer 
Lester Crystal said, "While there has been much debate about how to 
save lives and stop the spread of AIDS in Africa, there has been lit-
tle on-site television coverage about the situation. NewsHour decided 
to commit the time and resources to document the dire impact of AIDS 
in Africa because it is urgent news on every level -- local, national 
and international." The Kaiser HIV/AIDS Daily Report will cover the 
shows following each broadcast, and NewsHour Online will feature a 
special site about the series, adding daily updates, special reports 
and links. 


--
Bush Pledges US$ 200 Million to Global AIDS Fund, But Critics Call 
Contribution 'Too Little'

Making the United States the first nation to commit to the new global 
AIDS fund proposed last month by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, 
President Bush pledged on Friday an anticipated "initial" U.S. con-
tribution of $200 million, saying that there would be "more (money) 
to follow as we learn where our support can be most effective," the 
Washington Post reports (DeYoung, Washington Post, 5/12). Noting in 
his announcement that the pledge could "reduce suffering and spare 
lives," Bush said, "In a part of the world where so many have suf-
fered from war and want and famine, these latest tribulations are the 
cruelest of fates. We have the power to help" (Jelinek, AP/Washington 
Times, 5/12). According to Bush, a "worldwide consensus [is] forming 
on the basic elements" of the trust fund and how the $7 billion to 
$10 billion that Annan is asking for the fund would be used, noting 
an emphasis on prevention, treatment and transparency to ensure 
proper spending. He added that the fund should be endowed by "not 
only governments ... but also private corporations, foundations, 
faith-based groups and nongovernmental organizations." He also 
stressed that the fund "must respect intellectual property rights as 
an incentive for vital research and development." 

Annan, UNAIDS Praise Bush

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Bush was accompanied by Ni-
gerian President Olesegun Obasanjo and Annan, who called the pledge 
"a visionary decision that reflects your nation's natural leadership 
in the United Nations." Annan's comment was "clearly intended to 
soothe anger in Congress" after the U.N. Human Rights Commission 
voted the United States out of a council seat two weeks ago, the Post 
reports (Washington Post, 5/12). Annan said, "I wish to thank you, 
President Bush, for committing yourself today to placing the United 
States at the forefront of the global fight against HIV/AIDS. ... To 
defeat this epidemic that haunts humanity, and to give hope to the 
millions infected with the virus, we need a response that matches the 
challenge. ... And the resources provided must be over and above what 
is being spent today on the disease. ... This founding contribution 
by the United States with the promise to do more will encourage and 
energize others to act." Annan said he hopes the United States' dona-
tion will "set an example for other leaders," adding, "I believe to-
day will be remembered as the day we began to turn the tide" (U.N. 
release, 5/11). UNAIDS also lauded Bush's pledge to the global AIDS 
fund, saying in a statement, "UNAIDS applauds the U.S. government's 
leadership in being the first country to respond to the call made by 
[Annan] ... last month for a global trust fund. .. UNAIDS hopes that 
this announcement will give significant momentum to the development 
of the fund. The U.S. announcement is particularly welcome in the 
run-up to both the U.N. Special Session on HIV/AIDS, to be held in 
New York from 25-27 June, and to the summit of the G8 group of coun-
tries, scheduled for Genoa, Italy, in July this year" (UNAIDS re-
lease, 5/11). 


--
Growing Threat of HIV Drug Resistance Poses Questions for Treatment 
in Africa, Washington Times Reports

Antiretroviral drug regimens are failing "in an alarming number" of 
HIV/AIDS patients in the United States, raising questions about the 
feasibility of administering AIDS drugs in sub-Saharan African coun-
tries, the Washington Times reported yesterday in a front page spe-
cial report. Drug regimens that once "produced remarkable recover-
ies," allowing HIV-positive individuals to "return to relative health 
and a normal life," are failing in as many as half the patients tak-
ing them. While the treatments have contributed to a decline in AIDS-
related deaths in the United States, doctors believe that the death 
rates will "creep back up" as the treatments continue to fail. In ad-
dition, the "toxic" treatments cause "severe" side effects, including 
high cholesterol, liver damage, kidney stones, diabetes and osteopo-
rosis. Many patients have stopped taking their drug combinations, due 
to the side effects, "complicated" dosing schedule and the possibil-
ity of drug failure. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of 
Allergy and Infectious Diseases said that the drug combinations have 
an 85% success rate in patients who are new to the treatment and who 
adhere to the complex therapy, although that rate decreases over 
time. However, the efficacy of the regimens is not as good if the pa-
tient has a weakened immune system or has a "built-up resistance [to 
the drugs] after years of inadequate therapy." Dr. William Powderly 
of Washington University in St. Louis said, "Three or four years ago, 
we thought we had turned the corner -- that was wrong. We are start-
ing to see major AIDS infections in our hospital, and we don't have 
much in the way of [treatment] options." He added, "We can stop the 
virus from being produced in at least half the people being treated. 
In half, it isn't successful, and those people will develop resistant 
virus." 

Dropping Drugs Not the Answer in Africa

Although the April agreement of 39 drug firms to drop a lawsuit 
against a South African law that would allow the country to import or 
manufacture cheaper AIDS drugs opens the door to AIDS drug access in 
sub-Saharan Africa, the Times reports that AIDS researchers say that 
providing the drugs "creates its own set of problems," as Africa has 
"little or no health infrastructure." Dr. Ronald Gray, an epidemiolo-
gist at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said, "There is no in-
frastructure [in Africa] to deliver the care, and the nature of this 
complicated drug regime means that we will see treatment failure and 
drug resistance. Drug resistance could wipe out the utility of these 
drugs in just a few years." Fauci said, "Just parachuting antiretro-
virals into a country is not going to stop the [AIDS epidemic], add-
ing, "If we don't make the right choices and deal with this in a com-
prehensive manner, I think you will see nations disintegrate." 

Support for Assistance

President Bush's announcement on Friday that the United States would 
contribute $200 million to a United Nations global trust fund to 
fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria has raised questions about 
the country's commitment to the fight against the disease, the Times 
reports. According to the Times, "it may be naive to think that 
Americans will support a massive infusion of aid to deal with AIDS 
worldwide." A recent survey conducted by World Vision, a Christian 
charity, showed that 61% of Americans "are not inclined" to help 
fight AIDS overseas and 54% "are not even inclined to help AIDS or-
phans." World Vision President Richard Stearns said, "The overall 
poll results are alarming, especially considering the AIDS epidemic 
is literally ripping the fabric of society in many African nations" 
(Carter, Washington Times, 5/13). To read the full report, click 
here.


--
African Rural Labor Force Jeopardized by AIDS, FAO Report Says

The Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization on Thursday re-
leased a report projecting that by 2020, AIDS deaths could reduce the 
labor force in the 10 "most affected African countries" by 26%, or 16 
million people. The report, prepared for the 27th Session of the Com-
mittee on World Food Security, to meet in Rome from May 28 to June 1, 
states, "Throughout history, few crises have presented such a threat 
to human health and social and economic progress as does the HIV/AIDS 
epidemic. ... The virus is having a major impact on nutrition, food 
security, agricultural production and rural societies in many coun-
tries. Since the disease commonly strikes the most economically pro-
ductive members of society, HIV/AIDS is a problem of critical impor-
tance for agricultural, economic and social development." According 
to the report, seven million agricultural workers in 27 African coun-
tries have died from AIDS-related diseases since 1985, and "the loss 
of able-bodied adults affects the entire society's ability to main-
tain and reproduce itself." The report offers several recommendations 
to be reviewed at the Rome meeting, stressing "strong advocacy 
strategies to raise awareness of governments, policy makers, minis-
tries, opinion leaders and the general public about the impact of 
HIV/AIDS" and advocating the review of laws and practices of land and 
resource access to ensure HIV/AIDS-affected households are protected 
should the family's provider die. It also urges that "donor countries 
assist in HIV/AIDS prevention and reduce its negative impact on food 
security by providing advice and resources to countries heavily af-
fected by the virus" (FAO release, 5/10). 


--
The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, 
a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, by National 
Journal Group Inc. c 2001 by National Journal Group Inc. and Kaiser 
Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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