Third World Must Not Be Deprived Of The Most Advanced Medical Treatments Against AIDS, UNESCO Director-General Declares

November 18, 1997

Paris, November 17 - "It would be a scandal to allow AIDS patients in developing countries to die because they are excluded from receiving the newest therapies," the Director-General of UNESCO, Federico Mayor, declared today.

Mr. Mayor recently attended a co-ordination meeting of agency heads for the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), where he warned the international community against accepting such discrimination against developing countries and urged concrete emergency measures to assist them in their struggle against AIDS.

Here is Mr Mayor's full declaration:

"With the new therapies against AIDS - although we cannot yet assess their long-term efficiency - a great hope was born. These treatments, however, are very expensive and require costly infrastructure for the proper care of patients. The majority of people contaminated by the HIV virus - over 90% - live in developing countries and do not have access to these treatments. It would be their fate to be left, resigned, in their villages or in hospitals, without resources. This would be unacceptable, immoral and outrageous.

"In the face of disease, there must be no discrimination, be it based on nationality or skin colour. All - rich and poor - must be treated equally. We must spend less on the defence of borders which are today little threatened and invest more in the defence of citizens and human dignity.

"It would be a scandal to let patients in developing countries die of AIDS, depriving them of the hope provided by the new therapies. It would be a scandal to accept a de facto disparity in access to treatment to the detriment of Africa, Asia and Latin America. It would be a scandal to close our eyes - due to financial expedience, because of indifference, egocentricity or ignorance - to the slaughter ahead. Moreover, this blindness could have a dangerous boomerang effect : the likelihood of mutant and resistant HIV viruses emerging is proportional to the number of sick people.

"Ahead of World AIDS Day, marked on December 1 with an equal share of hope and despair, I launch an appeal to the international community: let us prevent this scandal from taking place.

"In the name of the intellectual and moral solidarity which is at the heart of UNESCO's mandate, I ask that measures be taken to equip and train medical and scientific personnel in the worst-hit countries to care for their patients. I also ask that measures be taken to reinforce research and work, with the support of the pharmaceutical sector, and the scientific and medical communities, on the development of a vaccine. Massive means must be raised to come to the succour of those who need it most, in keeping with the commitment made at the Denver G-8 Summit. All must also be done, on the national level, with parliamentarians and the media to increase radically the resources for research and treatment of the HIV-positive.

"I salute the initiative launched by the UNAIDS programme to the benefit of several developing countries to improve access for all to the most recent treatments.

"UNESCO is prepared to work with the relevant authorities of the international community and all potential partners to explore ways to provide access to the new therapies to the greatest numbers. Our ethical mission demands that we do all to ensure an equal chance of survival to all."

****

UNESCO

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