AIDS 2008 ends highlighting universal access need

Performance of the group Kormix at the Global Village, a parallel meeting open to the general public

Performance of the group Kormix at the Global Village, a parallel meeting open to the general public Credit: International AIDS Society/Mondaphoto

The AIDS 2008 – The XVII International AIDS Conference ended last Friday (8 August), in Mexico City. It was the second largest in the history of the International AIDS Conferences and the first held in Latin America.

“More than ever, at this conference we have faced reality and we have helped give visibility to vulnerable populations by naming these groups loud and clearly”, said Pedro Cahn, the conference co-chair, in his speech in the closing session and in his last day as president of the International AIDS Society.

Cahn supported the universal access to the treatment, but highlighted: “We have to keep in mind that we still have five new infections for every two patients reached by ARV [antiretroviral drugs] roll out. And we know that even doubling the number of patients reached by these scale up programmes would be insufficient to reach universal access.”

Cahn called attention to the fact that “behind statistics, behind each number, behind each graph or curve, there are millions of people waiting for support, treatment and care”.

“We need more funds for AIDS; we need more integration with sexual and reproductive health, Tuberculosis and Sexually Transmitted Infectious services”, he said.

Julio Montaner, the incoming president of the International AIDS Society for 2008-2010 and director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver (Canada), also supported the universal access during the closing session:

“We must keep the pressure on the G8 leaders to follow up on their commitment to achieve universal access to prevention, care and treatment by 2010”.

Montaner affirmed that “there can be no end to the pandemic unless we secure full protection of human rights for those most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. The rights of sex trade workers, injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, aboriginals, and women and girls must be protected through legal and policy reform in every country around the world. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go in this regard”.

About 50 per cent of the delegates at the 2008 conference had never before attended an international AIDS Conference. Furthermore, the International AIDS Society sponsored over 2,500 delegates from 95 countries.

Montaner said: “These carefully selected participants have made a commitment to return home to actively disseminate the newly acquired knowledge, as part of a concerted strategy to reach every corner of the world. Together, they represent the new generation that will pick up the fight against HIV.”

For more information on AIDS 2008 and to watch webcasts of several sessions, visit the AIDS 2008 website.

The next international International AIDS Conference will be in Vienna, Austria, in 2010.

Luisa Massarani, Latin America coordinator, SciDev.Net

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