Canadian HIV/AIDS activist and former UN Special Envoy, Stephen Lewis, was recently the keynote speaker at an international conference on AIDS in Cape Town. While not a scientist, Lewis was invited to speak on how scientists can and must also be activists.
“When the G8 won’t renew its 2005 commitment to universal access, when the G8 cynically uses the financial crisis to threaten cutbacks to AIDS funding … then it’s time for science to speak with one powerful voice of accusation,” Mr. Lewis said.
“You spend every day of your working lives to make life possible, and the power brokers devalue your work with the fraudulent plea of destitution,” he told the scientists. “Don’t let them get away with it.” -Lewis via
Despite launching a high-profile clinical vaccine trial today in South Africa, the lead researcher says that the funding for the project has not been renewed. U.S dollars have ensured that the trial can continue, but without more funding, further research is impossible.
The Globe and Mail reports that last year approximately 5.2 million people in South Africa alone lived with HIV. This is the highest number anywhere in the world, with young women being the hardest hit. One out of three women between the ages of 20-34 are infected with the virus.
The global economic recession along with broken promises from the wealthy G8 countries is creating the recipe for disaster. While anti-retrovial drugs (ARVs) are readily (and freely) available in rich nations, the Globe and Mail states that up to 12 million people in poorer countries are denied access to the life saving drugs.
Journalist Geoffrey York quoting Canadian scientist Dr. Montaner, states, “Cutting back on HIV-AIDS treatment programs during the recession will mean billions or even trillions of dollars in additional costs over the long term, especially because of growing scientific evidence that anti-retroviral medicine for AIDS patients can be crucial in preventing the transmission of the AIDS virus.”