Representatives of 19 Latin American countries gathered in Brazil since Thursday, January 12, began discussions on how to achieve universal access to anti-retroviral drugs for treating AIDS, and remedies for dealing with and preventing other sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
The meeting, the first of its kind in the region, will draw up a list of proposals to be presented to the United Nations in May.
According to World Health Organization data, at least 300,000 people in Latin America and the Caribbean are using anti-retrovirals to treat AIDS, with 170,000 of them in Brazil
Pedro Chequer, the head of Brazil’s AIDS/STD Program (Programa Nacional de DST – Doenças sexualmente transmissíveis – /AIDS) declared that he hopes the continent can reach a consensus.
He also called on participants to reject non-scientific approaches, such as the refusal to use condoms for religious, philosophical or cultural reasons.
As for the Brazilian AIDS/STD Program, Chequer reported that the average cost of treatment continues to rise sharply, going from US$ 1,350 per patient in 2003, to US$ 2,500 in 2005.
Universal Access to Drugs
The meeting will proceed through Saturday, January 14, at the Naoum Plaza Hotel in Brasília. Among other points, work groups are discussing suggestions to ensure universal access to anti-AIDS medicines by 2010.
The countries were divided into four groups: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela (Group 1); Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay (Group 2); Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama (Group 3); and Mexico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic (Group 4).