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Fighting AIDS – a joint venture of the rich and the poor

The 16th International AIDS Conference was held recently in Toronto. Around 24,000 scientists and activists from around the world had participated.// The conference emphasized that development of poor countries relies on the programs launched not only in within their territory but also in the rich countries.

Around 5 years back, many experts thought that it was unwise to treat people in poor countries who were infected with HIV because of the exorbitant rates of the antiretroviral drugs. According to them, persuading poor people to adhere to a complex medical routine was also impossible and they insisted limited HIV budgets should be aimed at preventing new infections.

However, in 2003, the experts retracted what they said. Antiretroviral treatment became affordable under political pressure. Even illiterate people seem to adhere to the medical routine. According to experts, prevention of new infection starts with encouragement of people to get tested for the virus.

The WHO announced in 2003 a target to bring 3 million people from poor countries into treatment by 2005. But now around 1.6 million people are getting medicines.

Since HIV infects around 4 million healthy people every year, prevention was given more importance than treatment, at the conference. The experts brought new tools to meet the challenge; vaginal microbicides that kill the virus before a woman is infected.

U.S. and European laboratories will be the ones producing the microbicide or vaccine, thus the destiny of the poor countries’ people depend partly on programs launched in rich countries.

Even other features of development can be advanced in poor countries with new technologies or practices adopted in rich countries. In fact, development is interdependent. The invention of ingenious syringes that block after one use was prompted by the vaccination drives in poor countries. Oil and mining companies in the West can be urged to reveal royalt y and tax payments to poor governments in their financial statements. This will help in tacking corruption.

In a nutshell, rich and poor countries are interdependent. The work done in rich countries can be beneficial for both.

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