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[procaare] WHO's "Massive Effort" Is Not Aggressive Enough Says Medecins Sans Frontieres

  • From: MSF <daniel_berman@geneva.msf.org>
  • Date: Mon, 9 Oct 2000 16:47:24 -0400 (EDT)

MSF Press Release:


Geneva, 4 October 2000 - -WHO's new "Massive Effort" to address HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria
is based on a faulty premise, according to comments made today by Medecins sans Frontieres at the
United Nations Geneva headquarters. MSF disagreed with WHO's claim that "each death [from these
three diseases] can be avoided with low cost technologies that are available today." The "Massive
Effort" advocacy campaign is being discussed this week with more than 80 NGOs in Winterthur,
Switzerland. It is a response to the G8's new global battle against infectious diseases, announced
at Okinawa last July.

"Although we appreciate that WHO is raising awareness about the dramatic impact of communicable
diseases in developing countries and the need for prevention, we believe that the current emphasis
on 'existing interventions' misleads the public into thinking that we already have the answers,"
said James Orbinski, President of MSF's International Council. "In fact, many effective medicines
are either too expensive or don't exist. We think WHO's emerging plan fails to challenge the status

MSF strongly supports many of WHO's proposed solutions, such as bed nets for malaria prevention and
additional funding for the current TB strategy (DOTS), but called on WHO to be more ambitious in the
short and middle-term. WHO's approach to Aids was cited as an illustration of the problem.

In its analysis to battle Aids, WHO outlines a series of prevention strategies and mentions the need
to treat opportunistic infections. However, the drug cocktails (antiretrovirals) that have caused
Aids deaths to plummet in wealthy countries are described as too expensive to consider for
developing countries. In light of the fact that triple drug therapy can now be purchased for USD
800, MSF spoke of a moral obligation to begin treating patients where possible. Right now, some
countries, such as Uganda, Ivory Coast and El Salvador are committed to expanding their Aids
programs. MSF insists that these countries should receive assistance from WHO to secure affordable
quality drugs.

"We also need WHO to emphasize the fact that research and development is at a standstill for the
diseases that most affect people in poor countries. We think that this message should be a critical
part of the Massive Effort advocacy campaign being launched this week in Winterthur," said Orbinski.
"Some of the public/private partnerships to find new drugs for TB and malaria may eventually yield
results but the current level of activity needs to be dramatically increased. It is WHO that should
be challenging national governments to ramp up public sector research for diseases that have been
abandoned by the multinational drug industry."

Of the 1,223 new drugs brought to market between 1975 and 1997, only 13 are indicated to treat
tropical diseases. In a time when the private sector has shifted resources to more lucrative
lifestyle diseases such as baldness and obesity, governments must fill this void.

Communicable diseases are responsible for 60 percent of the total disease burden in developing
countries and kill 5.5 million people each year. World-wide 34 million people are infected with HIV,
one person dies every 30 seconds from malaria and nearly one billion people will be newly infected
with TB over the next twenty years.

For further information please call Daniel Berman at +41 79 286 9649
Daniel Berman
Access to Essential Medicines Campaign

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