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Monday, 19 August, 2002, 18:16 GMT 19:16 UK
Aids drugs: 'There is no alternative'
Research into Aids drugs is continuing
Despite the cost, an expert says African states have no option but to try to provide anti-HIV drugs for infected patients.

Speaking on the World Service programme "Health Matters", Professor Charles Gilks, a senior adviser to the World Health Organisation (WHO), insisted that using drugs was the only way forward.

The WHO's own target is for 3m patients worldwide on antiretrovirals by 2005.


Antiretroviral, three drug treatment, is the only thing that will really impact on survival

Professor Charles Gilks, WHO adviser
He told the programme: "Antiretroviral, three drug treatment, is the only thing that will really impact on survival."

Other researchers fear that concentrating on meeting the WHO target will mean less money for proven strategies such as disease prevention, and schemes to help the millions orphaned by Aids.

Professor Alan Whiteside, director of the Health, Economics and HIV/Aids Research Division at the University of Natal in South Africa, argued that other important programmes might be at risk.

He said: "Antiretrovirals are a way forward.

"You can use these drugs but there are things you can use before that.

"Prevention must remain our first goal - you must stop other people being infected.

"There are choices about resources and about priorities."

Money worries

He said that while extra money was being made available from the international community at the moment, this could not be relied on forever.


Prevention must remain our first goal - you must stop other people being infected

Professor Alan Whiteside, Natal University
At worst, he said, this could mean that patients given expensive antiretrovirals now could find the supply cut off in a few year's time.

He said: "Unless the international community is prepared to make a lifetime commitment we must be very careful about going down that road."

However, Professor Gilks said: "None of us can predict the future - but an amazing commitment has been made by the international community towards malaria, TB and HIV.

"One of the major issues is to maintain that commitment - but governments have got to continue to pledge to make it."

He added: "No-one is advocating stopping the effective prevention activities - what we are trying to do is expand the array of activities that we can deliver in the countries that are most badly affected."

This story is featured in the radio programme Health Matters on the BBC World Service.

Click here for listening times

See also:

07 Jul 02 | Health
03 Jul 02 | South Asia
09 Oct 02 | Health
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