Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

World AIDS Day 2011: A Reminder of the Challenges Ahead

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

As we commemorate World AIDS Day today, the global health community recognizes remarkable progress in treatment and prevention in the past three years while acknowledging the challenges that remain in the fight against AIDS. For example, although the rates of newly infected people have declined over the past decade and access to treatment rates has increased, the former still greatly outpaces the latter. For those the World Health Organization have deemed sick enough to require urgent treatment, only about half actually receive care. Still, UNAIDS reports that the “unparalleled global response of the past decade has already forced the epidemic into decline,” with a decrease in AIDS-related deaths amid “unprecedented funding” for HIV programs.

UNAIDS, the United Nations agency devoted to providing universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care, reported over Thanksgiving that rates of new HIV infection have been steady over the past five years, with approximately 2.7 million newly infected people each year. In 33 countries, rates of new infection have declined; it is hoped that future rates of infection may be even lower, as a breakthrough study this year found that treatment reduced transmission from an infected person to their non-infected partner by as much as 96%. In Central Asia and Eastern Europe, however, the number of people living with HIV rose 250% during 2001-2010, and death rates continue to rise there even as they stabilize in other regions.

Progress continues to be made in the search for an HIV vaccine. The discovery of 17 unique antibodies with rare protective abilities against HIV by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and its partners earlier this year is one such success story, as scientists believe that this finding will be instrumental in creating an HIV vaccine.

While these developments are promising, sustained funding for HIV treatment may be adversely affected by the struggling global economy. For example, three days after the release of the UNAIDS annual report, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced that it would not be funding new grant programs until 2014.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in her speech on creating an “AIDS-free generation” earlier this month at the National Institutes of Health, setting such an ambitious goal may have been “unimaginable” in the past. But the knowledge and technologies we have today have given us the “route we need to take” to seize this historical opportunity in the fight against AIDS.

With an estimated 34 million people worldwide living with HIV, this year’s commemoration of World AIDS Day – 30 years since the discovery of HIV – reminds us of the scope and impact this pandemic has had on countless lives, the hope for new preventive measures and ultimately a cure, and the hard challenges that lie ahead to provide adequate prevention and treatment to all who require it.

For a CNN slideshow on “30 Years of AIDS Moments to Remember,” click here.

Promoting Open Collaboration on Neglected Tropical Diseases Research

Monday, October 31st, 2011

With the global population reaching an estimated 7 billion today, the fact that nearly a billion people suffer from malaria, tuberculosis and a host of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) is a staggering fact. Despite the need for prevention and treatment, the development of technologies including drugs, vaccines and diagnostics for these diseases has been insufficient due to a lack of financial incentives for their production.

In response to this dilemma, the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), National Institutes of Health, U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and BIO Ventures for Global Health joined with leading pharmaceutical companies and nonprofit research organizations (e.g., PATH) to create WIPO Re:Search, a public, searchable database of patent information that will allow research partnerships to benefit from the shared knowledge and technologies stored within the database. In an innovative, unprecedented take on promoting public-private partnerships, WIPO Re:Search membership is open to any organization that agrees with its set of guiding principles.

The regulations surrounding use of WIPO Re:Search go beyond sharing of research to include (among others) the condition that all intellectual property be subject to royalty-free licensure in Least Developed Countries (LDCs)-focused NTD research and development, as well as for the manufacture and sale of NTD products in LDCs.

The limited conditions under which intellectual property is royalty-free has sparked criticism from Doctors Without Borders, which says that limiting royalty-free licensed products to LCDs ignores the fact that many people suffering from NTDs do not live in countries that are categorized as LCDs. Although WIPO Re:Search demands that its members agree to “consider in good faith” the needs of developing countries, the rules of providing royalty-free licensed products developed through use of the database need not apply to non-LDC countries – thus “setting the bar for access too low,” according to a statement from DWB.

Even so, “WIPO Re:Search is a groundbreaking example of how a multi-stakeholder coalition can put IP to work for social benefit,” WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said at the database’s launch ceremony. “By joining WIPO Re:Search, companies and researchers commit to making selected intellectual property assets available under royalty-free licenses to qualified researchers anywhere in the world for research and development on neglected tropical diseases, malaria and tuberculosis. This commitment should accelerate the development of medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics for these diseases.”