After three days of debates last week in BrasÀlia, the capital of Brazil, governmental and civil society representatives from 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries decided to unite to negotiate prices for AIDS treatment medications and to purchase the medications together.
The idea of the meeting was for the countries to reach a common position that will enable treatment, prevention, and care to be extended to the entire population, not just the groups most vulnerable to the disease, by 2010.
According to the director of the Ministry of Health’s National STD (sexually transmitted diseases)/AIDS Program, Pedro Chequer, higher drug prices have raised the average annual treatment cost per patient from US$ 1.35 thousand, in 2003, to US$ 2.5 thousand, in 2005.
He pointed out, however, that for countries to continue to be able to deal with the disease, it is not enough just to reduce prices.
"It is essential for countries to unite, with the backing of international agencies, to establish effective mechanisms for the national production of medicines. The reduction and negotiation of prices are short-lived and do not guarantee us sustainability in the medium and long run," he emphasized.
Chequer affirmed that the world faces problems not only with medications but with the supply of contraceptives as well.
"If the whole world decided today to use condoms, as dictated by the scientific norm for sexual prevention, the supply would be insufficient.
"We have urged the World Bank, the United Nations, and bilateral agencies from First World countries to join with us in setting an effective timetable for expanding the installed capacity of condom factories," he said.
The results of the encounter will be presented at a meeting of the UN General Assembly in May. Among other things, the final document recommends the creation of indicators to evaluate access to prevention, care, and treatment in different countries and the need to seek international allies to correct clauses that impede better prices in economic and political accords.