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AIDS 2006: ‘Time to Deliver’

by editor2
August 17th, 2006

The XVI International AIDS Conference, taking place this week in Toronto, is the largest such gathering ever, bringing together more than 25,000 researchers, policymakers, media representatives, and people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

This year’s theme, “Time to Deliver,” puts an emphasis on ensuring that recent advances in antiretroviral therapy are accessible to all who need them, both in low-income countries and in disadvantaged communities in wealthy nations.

“We need access to AIDS drugs for every nation, including the U.S.,” Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who has attended the last four international AIDS conferences, told the Bay Area Reporter. “As the wealthiest nation in the world, we shouldn’t have a single case of AIDS.”

Prior to the conference opening on Sunday, August 13, an estimated 300 activists and delegates joined the “AIDS Treatment Now” march, sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Along with speakers from Africa, Asia, and Latin America describing the benefits of and need for affordable antiretroviral therapy in their countries, the U.S. and Canada were criticized for not doing enough.

Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper received the first of many rebukes for skipping the conference, reportedly to review military preparedness in the far north.

“Our prime minister is more interested in fighting George Bush’s war than in fighting the war on AIDS,” said Brian Finch of the Canadian AIDS Treatment Council.

“The role of prime minister includes a responsibility to send a message on the world stage,” said conference co-chair Dr. Mark Wainberg at the evening’s opening plenary. “You are sending a message that you do not think HIV/AIDS is a priority.”

Prior to the plenary, activists delivered to conference co-chair Helene Gayle the “Toronto Declaration,” calling for 20,000 specialized providers to treat 10 million people, 1 billion HIV tests, and $20 billion in resources.

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