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Annan and drug companies reaffirm joint commitment in fight against AIDS

Annan and drug companies reaffirm joint commitment in fight against AIDS

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and top officials from the world's major drug companies have reaffirmed their joint commitment in the fight against AIDS after meeting to take stock of progress in expanding access to HIV treatment and care in developing countries.

In a joint communiqué issued after their meeting at UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday, the Secretary-General and the seven companies said they agreed that prices of medicines and diagnostics were an important component of efforts to increase access to care, but - on their own - reduced prices "were not sufficient to catalyse the scaling up that is needed" to address HIV/AIDS at the community level.

"They see the need to address HIV/AIDS in a comprehensive manner with a package of prevention, diagnosis and care," the statement said. "They recognize that effective care calls for reliable and accessible diagnosis, and without the potential for care, increasing the impact of prevention is extremely difficult."

The statement said the focus of treatment for people with HIV would involve defining the elements of the package concerned with care - including, but not limited to, anti-retroviral therapy - then identifying and accrediting those groups who can provide this care. It would also offer "support to these accredited providers so that they make care available to people who need it and establishing means to subsidize poor people's access to this care in ways that use scarce resources as efficiently as possible."

Participants also agreed to join forces with other partners in the fight against HIV infection and AIDS, including employers and their workforces, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academics, faith-based groups and missions. "They will use their experience to help governments respond effectively to the needs of all," the statement said. "They agreed that they would work together to make the Global AIDS and Health Fund a success. They will communicate and report their results widely."

The companies at yesterday's talks included Abbott Laboratories, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Merck and Co Inc, and Pfizer. Also participating were senior officials of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The meeting was a follow-up to a 5 April meeting in Amsterdam. Since then, the companies, acting individually, have taken significant steps to make HIV/AIDS-related drugs more affordable and available for developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. They have also intensified their partnerships with NGOs, private employers, local communities and health-care practitioners, according to the statement.