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Hopkins AIDS experts issue warning about global efforts to provide drug therapies

Johns Hopkins infectious disease specialists who have spent more than two decades leading efforts to combat HIV and AIDS worldwide are warning that limited international relief supplies of antiretroviral therapies currently being distributed in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean will not get to those who can least afford to pay for them.

In an article appearing in the American Journal of Public Health online June 28, infectious disease specialist Jonathan Zenilman, M.D., a professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, reports that poorer people have been left out in the past due to insufficient local planning, and that donors and developing countries should learn from these mistakes as the number of people requiring therapy continues to grow.

"Local health officials are faced with the unenviable and difficult task of having to decide who will get therapy and live, and who will have to do without and possibly die," he says. "But this dilemma is unavoidable because supply will fall far short of demand, despite the generous nature and growing scope of aid efforts."

While President Bush's 2003 Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is spending more than $600 million on antiretroviral therapies for 2 million people, demand in the developing world is even greater and steadily growing, with at least 6.5 million people in need of drug therapy and only 15 percent receiving any. And, Zenilman notes, treatment for HIV is a lifelong need for infected people.

"Even if the president's plan was successful and included with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which calls for providing treatment to 3 million people by 2005, these efforts would only reach half of those in need," says Zenilman, senior author of the journal article.

"Though more people in developing countries are receiving therapy, growing from 400,000 in June 2004 to 700,000 in December 2004, it still amounts to only 4 percent of infected people in India,
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Source:Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions


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