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Ending global poverty begins with women’s rights

Inadequate funding and aggressive drug company tactics imperil 2010 goal, says Oxfam

Inadequate funding and aggressive drug company tactics imperil 2010 goal, says Oxfam

May 10, 2010

Inadequate donor financing and aggressive tactics by multinational pharmaceutical companies threaten to derail efforts to achieve universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment and support by 2010, international agency Oxfam warned today.

At a news conference on the opening day of the International AIDS Conference, singer and Oxfam ambassador Annie Lennox lauded the progress achieved to date, and urged action by rich countries.

Annie Lennox said: ‘If we are to achieve the promise of universal access by 2010, the AIDS Conference must light a fire under political leaders to increase their aid for HIV/AIDS and make it more effective. It is unacceptable that so many women, in particular, are suffering for want of treatment and care.”

The agency said lack of predictable financing leaves health systems vastly under-staffed, while aggressive legal manoeuvring by the multinational pharmaceutical industry makes key medicines unaffordable for poor people and poor countries.

Oxfam International health adviser Dr. Mohga Kamal-Yanni said: ‘Fifty percent more than the amount currently pledged for HIV/AIDS is needed to meet the promised goal of universal access by 2010. In 2008 alone UNAIDS estimates an US$8 billion shortfall, and the gap will increase if donors do not change course.

Rohit Malpani, Oxfam International policy adviser, said: ‘Multinational pharmaceutical companies have deployed armies of lawyers to block affordable generic medicines, particularly for second-line treatment. The world’s richest governments have joined them to punish developing countries that in good faith try to make medicines affordable.

Oxfam also criticised donors’ penchant for giving short-term grants, which hinders building strong health systems. Dr. Kamal-Yanni: ‘Addressing the workforce crisis, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, requires long-term predictable financing so countries can train, hire and retain staff, particularly female health workers in rural areas.

Wasai Jacob Nanjakululu, head of Oxfam’s global AIDS programme, said: ‘Only two of Africa’s countries, Botswana and Gambia, have made good on their promise to spend 15% of the national budget on health. Africa must do its part to close the financing gap and achieve universal access.

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