Fight against AIDS continues

Helen Palmer May 30, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: It’s a grim anniversary to mark, but AIDS has been with us for 25 years. June of 1981 was when the Centers for Disease Control recognized the first “official” cases. The United Nations meets tomorrow to review international progress in fighting HIV/AIDS. Today the U.N. released its official report on the subject. On the positive side, the spread of the epidemic seems to be slowing down. But there are still 40 million people infected with HIV. And nearly 3 million die from it every year. Helen Palmer reports from the Marketplace Health Desk at WGBH it is an unprecedented disease that’s drawn unprecedented resources.

HELEN PALMER: The UNAIDS report claims there’s been important progress fighting HIV/AIDS — particularly when it comes to the cash now available.

PAUL DE LAY: We were able to raise about $8 billion for use in 2005. We did not achieve most of the other targets.

UNAIDS’ Paul De Lay says about a billion dollars a year was spent in the first two decades. But even today’s increases won’t do enough

DE LAY: The annual price tag for the developing world is going to be about $20 billion and that will be year after year after year.

There are a million patients in the US where care costs more per patient, says Renata Simone. She produced a public television doctumentary, “Age of AIDS,” premiering tonight.

RENATA SIMONE: We are spending $20 billion just within our own borders — $20 billion a year of taxpayer money going for AIDS.

She says one of the biggest problems is how to use the cash wisely. David Gartner of the Global AIDS Alliance says the Bush administration has directed $15 billion for AIDS over five years, but its abstinence strategy hasn’t been effective.

DAVID GARTNER: The appproach to prevention that’s being put forward does not reflect the best-science, most-comprehensive approach.

The White House refuses to buy condoms. Ultimately, only a vaccine can stop AIDS. $600 million a year is being spent to find one, but nobody expects success within a decade. And some project 100 million AIDS cases by 2020.

In Boston, I’m Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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