History will surely judge us harshly if we do not respond with all the energy and resources that we can bring to bear in the fight against HIV/AIDS," said Nelson Mandela, one of the world's most prominent figures in the fight against the disease, at the closing ceremony of the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok on July 11-16. The world must "make the money work to save lives," Peter Piot, the UNAIDS executive director, echoed him.
"We must never forget our own responsibilities," Mr Mandela declared. Delegates adopted the Bangkok Leadership Statement, which calls for a greater political element in the fight against the disease. Many reports from politicians, public figures, doctors, human rights' advocates and representatives of the HIV positive community, highlighted the need to increase funding for preventive and treatment programmes. The appeal was addressed to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, whose main donor is the US, as well as to the business communities of many nations and private funds. The call was repeated throughout the conference, which was accompanied by numerous demonstrations by HIV/AIDS-infected people.
"The conference gave us the chance to see what was new in the HIV medicine sphere," said Alexander Goliusov, head of the HIV/AIDS supervision department of Russia's federal service for supervising consumers' rights protection and people's prosperity, in a RIA Novosti interview. "New medications have appeared that affect the virus when it is still outside the cell, in the inter-cell space," the expert continued. "If this area is developed intensively, we can achieve significant positive changes in prevention of the HIV. We will be able to block the virus before it gets into the cell."
According to Mr Goliusov, "despite its financial problems, Russia can still use new technologies to treat and prevent HIV, both under the federal program The Prevention of and the Fight against Social Diseases for 2002-2006 and with the help of international grants given to Russia to prevent AIDS, to treat people living with the disease correctly and keep them alive for as long as possible." The World Bank has given Russia a five-year loan of over $150 million for a project, The Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment of Tuberculosis and AIDS, which is to be implemented throughout the country. Moreover, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has approved a request from five leading non-profit organisations that specialise in HIV. Their project will be carried out in ten Russian regions over five years.
It is important to ensure a broader role for non-government organisations in the prevention and treatment of the HIV, Goliusov points out. It is much easier for them to secure access to high-risk groups, such as prostitutes, drug addicts, and pregnant women among others. "It is important to work regularly with intravenous drug users," the experts adds, "because this will cut the rate at which epidemics spread. So far needle-exchange programmes are the only way for medical workers to find an approach to drug addicts."
"We now have methods of treatment that can stop the disease and this has drastically changed the situation," points out Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the Federal Scientific Methodological Centre to Fight AIDS. "Thanks to these methods, some HIV-infected people can hope to live for a long time to come."
However, far from everyone has access to this treatment, which at up to $10,000 a year per person is very expensive for Russia. "Our task today is to provide cheaper medications for the HIV-infected, to bring down the prices," Vadim Porkovsky says. "If we purchase them on emerging markets, such as India, or produce them on our own, we will be able to bring the prices of these medications down by tens of times, just like in Brazil."