Fund push to AIDS war

Read more below

By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Delhi
  • Published 11.01.04
  •  

New Delhi, Jan. 11: With HIV/AIDS spreading at an alarming rate and no vaccine yet in sight, efforts are on to form an international pressure group of developing countries to tackle the scourge on a war footing in the third world.

Apart from global efforts, measures like enacting legislation by affected countries, introduction of HIV/AIDS in school syllabus and “safe sex” in college curriculum, and using the mass media in a bigger way to raise awareness are being contemplated.

The legislation aims to look at issues related to discrimination, rights of vulnerable groups such as women and children, quackery and spurious drugs as well as appropriate financial mechanisms for access to prevention, care and new technologies such as vaccines and microbicides, products which prevent the sexual transmission of HIV.

Stressing the need for increased support for a vaccine, Frank Pallone Junior, co-founder, Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, and Kapil Sibal, board member of International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, called for steps to improve bilateral relations on issues related to public health and HIV/AIDS.

Pallone, a Democrat Congressman from New Jersey and recipient of the Padma Bhushan in 2002 for his contribution towards bringing India and the US closer, said America has promised to make $15 billion available to combat AIDS in 14 hard-hit countries ranging from Haiti to Kenya.

“We are pushing to include India also in this global funding,” Pallone said, addressing a news conference here with Sibal. “How can they ignore India in the fight against HIV/AIDS especially when we have about four million affected people,” the eminent lawyer argued.

Sibal, also a Congress leader, said he has, in consultation with NGOs, lawyers, the Indian Council for Medical Research and the National AIDS Control Organisation, prepared a draft legislation to be placed in Parliament. There is need for a law for protection of individuals and vulnerable groups living with HIV/AIDS, he added.

“This is one of the most challenging tasks for policy makers around the world. Such legislation must deal with human rights abuse against individuals and communities. It is also necessary to strengthen anti-discrimination laws to protect individuals and vulnerable groups both in the public and private sector,” Sibal said.

A vaccine is the only weapon that will ultimately end the epidemic, but it will take anywhere between seven to 10 years to make a safe and effective vaccine available, he stated.

Pallone said only about 1 per cent of all HIV/AIDS funding goes towards vaccine research. Unfortunately, international support to fight the scourge is still inadequate though it is clear that public support for AIDS programmes is at its highest levels.