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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November 2004, 00:41 GMT
'Drugs will not stem global HIV '
Image of African children
Africa has been hit hard by HIV
The global HIV pandemic cannot be controlled by cheap drugs alone, the charity Christian Aid warns.

It says a multi-pronged approach is needed, tackling poverty as well as providing antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in the worst hit areas.

A report due later on Tuesday from UNAIDS will highlight the ever-growing problem of HIV around the world.

It is expected to present data showing how more women and young girls are affected than ever before.

Poverty is one of the key drivers of this epidemic
Dr Rachel Baggaley from Christian Aid

Christian Aid is concerned there are contradictory and confusing messages regarding the HIV pandemic.

One is that the situation is so far gone in some parts of the world as to be hopeless.

Another is that the introduction of ARVs alone will be enough to control HIV.

Dr Rachel Baggaley, head of Christian Aid's HIV unit, said: "Both these ideas are misleading.

"In certain areas we have seen significant progress.

"The introduction of cheaper antiretrovirals is a positive move, but we must realise that it is not the sole answer to this crisis."

Global debt

Christian Aid supports the initiative of the World Health Organization to get three million people on ARVs by 2005, the '3 by 5 target', but it is concerned resources could be diverted away from prevention to treatment.

Dr Baggaley said: "Poverty is one of the key drivers of this epidemic. Unless we tackle issues of trade, debt and the lack of trained health care workers, we cannot begin to win the battle.

"Providing drugs without taking account of these issues will not work in the long term."

They flag a number of issues which we also think are important.
Ties Boerma from WHO

Christian Aid believes that wealthier countries should cancel the debts owed by poorer nations.

Zambia, for example, has one million HIV-positive people but spends 30% more on servicing its debts than on health.

Kenya spends US $0.76 per capita on HIV/Aids compared with US $12.92 per capita on debt repayments.

Ties Boerma from WHO said: "They flag a number of issues which we also think are important.

"The reduction of poverty is very crucial. The other issue is the lack of trained health workers. We are working hard on launching an initiative on training health workers, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Currently there are 600,000-700,000. We need at least a million more in the next five years or so."

He did not think the WHO 3 by 5 target was diverting attention and funding away from other HIV strategies.

"By setting our goal high we draw attention to the other inequalities," he said.

A spokesman from the UK Department for International Development said it supported debt relief as a means of reducing poverty and HIV burden in the poorest countries.

"We are paying our share - approximately 10% - of the debt service costs to the World Bank and the African Development Bank for eligible countries, many of which are amongst the hardest hit by HIV and AIDS."

Why Aids has to be tackled on more than one front

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