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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – January 20, 2003: AIDS Drug Coalition - 2003-01-17

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

A new international coalition has been launched to help fight AIDS and the H-I-V virus that causes it. The new International H-I-V Treatment Access Coalition will help provide anti-retroviral drugs to people in poor countries. This medicine helps prevent H-I-V from developing in the body. These drugs have been used in rich countries since nineteen-ninety-six. They have resulted in a sharp drop in H-I-V and AIDS sickness and death in those countries. Coalition officials say poor countries in the developing world must now have the same drugs.

Coalition officials say no single organization can successfully spread anti-AIDS drugs around the world. Instead, a united group effort is required. The coalition plans to work together to share information about successful treatment programs in developing countries. It will also establish programs to buy the medicines and train health care workers about the drugs.

The coalition says the price of anti-retroviral drugs is now decreasing. A one-year treatment used to cost ten-thousand dollars for one person. Today, it is less than three-hundred dollars. This is still a high price for people in developing countries. However, coalition officials say more aid money is now being used to pay for the drugs. In addition, many governments have reduced import taxes on medicines. Coalition officials say this political and humanitarian support must now be expanded to make treatment a reality for all people with H-I-V and AIDS.

The World Health Organization estimates more than forty-million people have the disease. More than ninety-five percent live in poor and developing countries. Last year, nearly all of the more than three-million AIDS deaths were victims from these same poor countries.

The W-H-O says only about five percent of the people living with H-I-V in developing countries use anti-retroviral drugs. Coalition officials say their goal is to increase the number of patients on AIDS drugs during the next three years.

The International H-I-V Treatment Access Coalition has fifty-six members. They include governments, public health organizations, businesses, health researchers, humanitarian groups, victims, and their supporters. The W-H-O will supervise coalition efforts from its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.