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IAS 2013 Attendees Address Issues Surrounding Treatment Access, Including Stigma, Trade Agreements

On Sunday at the opening of the 7th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2013) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, IAS 2013 International Chair and IAS President Françoise Barré-Sinoussi said, “[S]tigma and discrimination are still amongst the key barriers” to people living with HIV receiving early treatment, Agence France-Presse/Fox News reports. “Many Asian countries experienced concentrated epidemics, and there is an immense need to address key affected populations, which are still left behind in many countries,” she said, according to the news agency. “Adeeba Kamarulzaman, AIDS researcher at Malaysia’s Universiti Malaya, said those affected by the disease and needing help included gay men, sex workers and transgendered people,” AFP writes, noting, “Michel Kazatchkine, the U.N.’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said the region should also decriminalize drug use, making it easier for users to get clean needles and other help to prevent infections with HIV” (6/30). According to an IAS 2013 press release (.pdf), the issue of stigma and punitive laws was discussed at the plenary session on Tuesday (7/2).

Also on Tuesday at the conference, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) “warned … that rising intellectual property rights are blocking the generic production of newer drugs to treat HIV and are keeping them out of reach for developing countries,” the Associated Press reports (7/2). “The price of first- and second-line antiretrovirals (ARVs) to treat HIV are falling because of increased competition among generic producers, but newer ARVs continue to be priced astronomically high, according to the annual report ‘Untangling the Web of ARV Price Reductions,'” which was released at the conference, according to an MSF Access Campaign press release (7/2). “Patents keep them priced beyond reach. We need to watch carefully as newer, better medicines reach the market in the coming years, as these are the drugs that we’ll quickly be needing to roll out. The price question is far from resolved,” Jennifer Cohn, medical director at MSF’s Access Campaign, said, Agence France-Presse/France 24 reports (7/2). The group “urged the United States and 11 other countries negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership not to sign the free-trade pact … warn[ing] that the pact will increase intellectual property rights across Asia and the Americas, expanding monopoly protection for medicines and threatening cheap access to drugs,” the AP notes (7/2).