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Home > Topics > Health > Pandemic: Facing AIDS > AIDS Access to Treatment
Pandemic: Facing AIDS
AIDS Access to Treatment

In 1994, the World Bank estimated that there would be 1.2 million HIV-positive Brazilians by 2000 — but by 2002, there were only half that many. Among those who do have the disease, hospitalizations are down seventy-five percent, and the death rate is down fifty percent. Thanks to the hard work of AIDS activists, doctors, health ministry officials, and patients, AIDS is an entirely different disease in Brazil than in the rest of the developing world. While the Brazilians have not cured AIDS, they have been able to do what other developing nations have not. Every Brazilian with HIV gets the antiretroviral drug cocktail, free of charge, from the government. Perhaps more importantly, they get the medical care and regular lab testing needed to properly administer these powerful drugs. Last year, the health ministry spent $444 million on AIDS drugs — but they saved almost that much through decreased hospitalizations, a lowered infection rate, and by maintaining a healthy and productive workforce.

Brazil's relatively large economy has made many of these improvements possible. However, other countries like India and many African nations are unable to meet the high costs of brand name — or even generic — pharmaceuticals, or to insure their proper delivery. UNAIDS and others are demanding that multi-national pharmaceutical companies lower their prices so that developing countries can afford these drugs and are guaranteed treatment. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan continues to press wealthy nations to help fund the treatment networks necessary to deliver the drugs and save lives.

For related information about organizations working to lower drug costs and improve access to treatment, visit the links below.

AIDS ReSearch Alliance of America
621-A North San Vicente Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
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AIDS ReSearch Alliance (ARA) is working to find the most effective drug therapies and to discard highly touted therapies that show little or no benefit for treatment of HIV. This progress is critical as ARA tackles HIV on all fronts: striving to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV and working with its ultimate goal-a cure for HIV/AIDS—always in mind.

ARA's mission remains critical. The next big breakthrough has yet to be made. There remains the need for therapies that permanently prevent HIV disease from progressing to AIDS-and they must be less toxic, with less dire side effects. And, although progress has been made in HIV prevention, there still is not a universally effective vaccine against the virus.

ARA's research agenda is to:

  • develop more effective and less toxic direct anti-HIV therapies;
  • determine how to best eradicate the HIV viral reservoirs that "fly beneath the radar" of currently available drugs;
  • develop vaccines and microbicides that prevent the spread of the virus; and
  • help prevent the loss of immune function in recently infected people, restore immune function in those who are more compromised, and address questions of long-term disease management.

For more information, visit the AIDS ReSearch Alliance Web site.

120 Wall Street, 13th Floor
New York, NY 10005-3902
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The American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) is the nation's leading nonprofit organization dedicated to the support of HIV/AIDS research, AIDS prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy.

amFAR supports cutting-edge research on HIV/AIDS treatments and prevention methods, including an AIDS vaccine. At the Web site, amFAR provides the latest treatment information to patients and physicians, conducts public and professional education programs, and advocates for rational and compassionate AIDS-related public polices.

Since 1985, the Foundation has invested nearly $190 million in support for its programs and awarded grants to over 1,900 research teams worldwide.

For more information, visit the amFAR Web site.


Health GAP
c/o Mobilization Against AIDS International
584 Castro Street, #416
San Francisco, CA 94114
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Health GAP is an organization of U.S.-based AIDS and human rights activists, people living with HIV/AIDS, public health experts, fair trade advocates and concerned individuals who campaign against policies of neglect and avarice that deny treatment to millions and fuel the spread of HIV. It is dedicated to eliminating barriers to global access to affordable life-sustaining medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS as key to a comprehensive strategy to confront and ultimately stop the AIDS pandemic. Health GAP believes that the human right to life and to health must prevail over the pharmaceutical industry's excessive profits and expanding patent rights.

Health GAP campaigns for drug access and the resources necessary to sustain access for people with HIV/AIDS across the globe. The organizations works with allies in the global South and in the G-7 countries to formulate policies that promote access, mobilize grassroots support for those policies, and confront governmental policy makers, the pharmaceutical industry and international agencies when their policies or practices block access.

Health GAP is a project of Mobilization Against AIDS, International.

For more information, visit the Health GAP Web site.


International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI)
110 William Street
New York, NY 10038-3901
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The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) is a global organization working to speed the development and distribution of preventive AIDS vaccines-the world's best hope for ending the AIDS epidemic. IAVI's work focuses on four areas: mobilizing support through advocacy and education; accelerating scientific progress; encouraging industrial participation in AIDS vaccine development; and assuring global access.

Although the effort to develop a preventive AIDS vaccine is beginning to stir, there remain significant scientific, political, and economic obstacles. Moreover, the research effort to date has focused on creating vaccines for industrialized countries, even though more than 95% of 15,000 new infections each day occur in developing countries where there is little access to treatment.

Scientists agree that a preventive vaccine is the best hope for ending the epidemic, yet vaccine research and development commands only about 2% of the US$20 billion the world spends annually on AIDS prevention, research, and treatment. The global AIDS burden is deepening the rift between the world's rich and poor, a trend that will persist unless and until an affordable vaccine is available around the world.

IAVI was born out of the recognition that the best long-term solution to the growing AIDS epidemic is a vaccine.

For more information, visit the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative Web site.


Médecins Sans Frontières - Access to Essential Medicines Campaign
6 East 39th Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10016
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Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as Doctors Without Borders or MSF) is at the forefront of emergency health care as well as care for populations suffering from endemic diseases and neglect. MSF provides primary health care, performs surgery, rehabilitates hospitals and clinics, runs nutrition and sanitation programs, trains local medical personnel, and provides mental health care. Through longer-term programs, MSF treats chronic diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, sleeping sickness, and AIDS; assists with the medical and psychological problems of marginalized populations including street children and ethnic minorities; and brings health care to remote, isolated areas where resources and training are limited.

MSF unites direct medical care with a commitment to bearing witness and speaking out against the underlying causes of suffering. Its volunteers protest violations of humanitarian law on behalf of populations who have no voice, and bring the concerns of their patients to public forums, such as the United Nations, governments, and the media.

MSF's Access to Essential Medicines Campaign is pushing to lower the prices of existing medicines, to stimulate research and development for diseases that primarily affect the poor, and to overcome other barriers to access.

MSF believes essential medicines should be accessible and affordable to developing countries. Therefore, it is advocating for a combination of policies to lower drug prices on a sustainable basis; these strategies include encouraging generic competition, voluntary discounts on branded drugs, global procurement, and local production.

For more information, visit the Médecins Sans Frontières Web site. To participate in the Access to Essential Medicine Campaign, visit the campaign Web site.


Oxfam America
26 West Street
Boston, MA 02111
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Oxfam America is an international development organization dedicated to creating lasting solutions to hunger, poverty and social injustice around the world.

Oxfam provides financial, technical and networking assistance to grassroots groups to support their self-help community development initiatives. Oxfam also advocates among national and international policy-makers, suggesting humane public policies that address structural impediments to ending poverty and hunger. In addition, Oxfam educates Americans about the causes and solutions to world hunger and poverty. A major component of its educational and policy work is campaigning throughout the U.S. to get Americans actively behind the important policy issues that it believe will make significant differences to poor communities.

Oxfam America is only one of 12 Oxfam organizations around the world that comprise Oxfam International. Working together, Oxfam collaborates on emergency relief projects, campaigns for policy change, and in creates innovative broad based grassroots projects that have great impact throughout a region or across countries.

A current advocacy initiative of Oxfam's is the "Cut the Cost" campaign. With infectious diseases killing 30,000 people in the developing world daily, Oxfam urges a change to the world trade rules on drug patents, which restrict developing countries' access to essential medicines.

For more information, visit the Oxfam America Web site, the Oxfam International Web site, or the "Cut the Cost" campaign Web site.


Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)
C/o South Africa Development Fund
555 Amory Street
Boston, MA 01230
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The primary aim of The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) is to raise public understanding about issues surrounding the availability and affordability of many HIV/AIDS treatments. This includes treatment for the majority of opportunistic infections. TAC campaigns against the view that AIDS is a 'death sentence.'

It is estimated that as many as 4 million South Africans are infected with HIV. It is the biggest health crisis facing this country in recent history. The consequences of this disease do not only affect those who are HIV+, but also their loved ones, their friends, their children and those who will become HIV+ in the future. This implies that the vast majority of South Africans are personally affected by the virus.

Given this critical situation, it is essential that South African society and government combat HIV/AIDS rationally and competently. There are treatments available to increase the life expectancy of HIV+ people and to reduce the risk of mothers with HIV transferring the virus to their newborn children. Unfortunately, these treatments are unaffordable for the vast majority of people living in this country and throughout the rest of Africa. Much of this has to do with over-pricing, draconian patent laws and excessive profiteering by the pharmaceutical industry.

In response, TAC works to:

  • Ensure access to affordable and quality treatment for people with HIV/AIDS.
  • Prevent and eliminate new HIV infections.
  • Improve the affordability and quality of health-care access for all.

For more information, visit the Treatment Action Campaign Web site, or the South Africa Development Fund, through which U.S.-based donations are facilitated.


UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS)
20, avenue Appia
CH-1211 Geneva 27
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The global mission of UNAIDS is to lead, strengthen and support an expanded response to the AIDS epidemic that will:

  • prevent the spread of HIV
  • provide care and support for those infected and affected by the disease
  • reduce the vulnerability of individuals and communities to HIV/AIDS
  • alleviate the socioeconomic and human impact of the epidemic.

UNAIDS is a joint programme founded by the United Nations, sponsored by UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, UNESCO, WHO, the World Bank, and, UNDCP. Through UNAIDS, these organizations expand their outreach through strategic alliances with other United Nations agencies, national governments, corporations, media, religious organizations, community-based groups, regional and country networks of people living with HIV/AIDS, and other nongovernmental organizations.

The Secretariat of UNAIDS is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Current priority areas for the Secretariat include:

  • young people
  • highly vulnerable populations
  • prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission
  • developing and implementing community standards of AIDS care
  • vaccine development
  • special initiatives for hard-hit regions, including sub-Saharan Africa.

For more information, visit the UNAIDS Web site or the UN Foundation Web site, through which donations are facilitated.


Use the resources below to learn more about what you can do to support increased access to HIV/AIDS treatments and drugs.

Sign an online petition in support of access to HIV/AIDS drugs and treatment, sponsored by Doctors Without Borders.

Take action to "Cut the Cost" with Oxfam's campaign to make sure poor people can get affordable medicines.

Join the Health GAP Action Network to receive action alerts and participate in town meetings, protests, and letter-writing campaigns - all in support of global AIDS treatment access.

Stay up-to-date on HIV/AIDS policy and legislation in the United States with AIDS Action.

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