Thai Treatment Action Group
AIDS ACCESS Foundation
Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS [TNP+]
For Immediate Release
06 July 2004
THAI and U.S. AIDS TREATMENT ACTIVISTS ANNOUNCE PLANS FOR XV INTERNATIONAL AIDS CONFERENCE PROTEST
GROUPS PLAN OPENING DAY MARCH TO DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY AND ACTION AT CONFERENCE WITH THEME "ACCESS FOR ALL"
(Bangkok) - Activists from Thailand and the United States will host a global protest and march at the opening of the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok on July 11th. In announcing the action, th groups said that they will demand accountability from heads of states, agencies and individuals who fail to effectively address the gaps and inequities in access to HIV/AIDS treatment.
"The purpose of our action is to make it clear that the world will no longer accept the broken promises or political barriers that deny access to vital prevention programs or treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS," said Kamon Uppakaew, Chair of the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (TNP+). "We will have thousands of people from every corner of the world, led by Thai groups, expressing their outrage at the actions of governments and corporations that have acted in collusion to deny people basic human rights when it comes to the greatest pandemic in history."
One of the key issues presented by the protest organizers is inadequate funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund). According to the groups, the lack of funding to the Global Fund has severe long-term financial implications for the global community.
"As a result of the neglect of the Global Fund, UNAIDS has had to adjust their financing targets for the Fund dramatically upward," said Sharonann Lynch, Director of International Policy for the United States-based international group Health GAP. "Previously, UNAIDS set funding targets of $10.5 and $15 billion US for the years 2005 and 2007 respectively. They have just announced new targets of $12 billion and $20 billion for those same years. This is due directly to the donor nations ignoring their commitment to saving millions of lives around the world."
The activist groups will also take the opportunity of having the world spotlight on Thailand during the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok to highlight local issues of importance.
"There are serious, long-term implications to providing affordable access to treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS in Thailand with the proposed Free Trade Agreement negotiated between the United States and Thailand," stated Nimit Tienudom, Director of Thailand's ACCESS Foundation. "Thailand presents a model to the world of both the hopes and challenges facing nations. By producing generic drugs that meet the treatment needs thousands of people at an affordable cost, we are well on the road to being able to provide universal coverage for those in need. Free Trade Agreements like this one, as well as other donor-imposed conditions, will effectively tie the hands of Thailand and other governments."
Other issues that will be highlighted during the protest and the International AIDS Conference include national governments' refusal to transform rhetoric about the fight against HIV/AIDS into concrete economic and political action; broken promises on the part of wealthy donor nations to provide $10 billion (US) annually in the fight against AIDS by the year 2005; and human rights violations faced by People Living with HIV/AIDS in the form of repressive drug wars and policies.
"We are going to focus on, among other things, the importance of harm reduction," said Paisan Suwannawong, director of the Thai Treatment Action Group (TTAG). "Included in harm reduction are such issues as providing programs that promote needle exchange among drug users to promote effective HIV prevention. These programs fall under the umbrella of protecting the human rights of those marginalized groups that are at high risk of HIV infection."
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