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Combating AIDS

Louis-Charles Viossat, the Ambassador in charge of action against AIDS and communicable diseases, representative of France at the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, writes on the deadly diseases.

health and fitness Updated: Nov 08, 2008 18:06 IST

AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are amongst the worst scourges of our times. These three pandemics are the cause of a daily hecatomb on our planet, a hecatomb that particularly claims the lives of the poorest and the weakest, a hecatomb that knows no barriers. 33 million men, women and children are infected with or affected by HIV-AIDS; 1 million people die of malaria each year, malaria being the foremost reason for child mortality on the African continent, and 2 million human beings continue to die of tuberculosis, the multi and ultra-resistant forms of which spread swiftly.

Behind these terrible figures, there are hundreds of thousands of broken lives, the daily fear of malaria and death, the suffering of parents and children mourning their kin and the reality of disintegrating families and broken hopes.

India, which will be hosting during the next eight days the Administrative Boards of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and "Roll Back Malaria", has experienced the reality of these scourges. In fact, India pays a heavy toll for these three pandemics which are the cause of one-third of deaths through infectious diseases, and confronted with which, it is acting with determination by giving an increasing number of patients access to anti-retroviral treatments, counselling and screening, distributing millions of insecticide-treated bed nets and treating hundreds of thousands of patients suffering from tuberculosis.

India's battle against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria is also the battle to which France, true to its humanitarian tradition and its determination to eliminate poverty and precariousness from the world, has strongly committed itself since many years.

In fact, France is one of the very first donors in the world, contributing almost a billion euros yearly for global health.
France is behind the creation of one of the chief multilateral instruments of combat against AIDS and major pandemics. I am particularly referring to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, directed by Prof. Michel Kazatchkine, a fund of which France is the top European donor. This global Fund finances 15 programmes in India to the tune of half a billion dollars. Worldwide, this Fund has enabled almost 2 million people to receive anti-retroviral treatment, and ensured the distribution of 60 million insecticide-treated bed nets.

I am also referring to UNITAID. Created in September 2006, this extremely innovative organisation is financed by solidarity contributions levied on air tickets, and it has already reduced the prices of anti-retroviral medicines by 50%, while financing the treatment of hundreds of thousands of children suffering from HIV-AIDS. India, which is not its member, nevertheless benefits from its programmes related to HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis.

The action of France also constitutes cutting-edge, internationally recognized research, particularly the remarkable work of Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, the two latest Nobel Prizes for medicine, as well as the programmes of the National Research Agency on AIDS (ANRS) or the Pasteur Institute.

France's action is also that of operators such as ESTHER, which unites the hospital services of Europe and Southern countries for an effective prevention of suitable treatments for patients of tens of countries. It is also the action of on-field NGOs, such as AIDES, Sidaction and Solthis, foundations such as the Fondation de France, as well as companies such as ACCOR, each of which in their own ways, act daily to reduce AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Yes, this mobilisation of France and the entire international community has started to bear fruit after many years of efforts. The number of patients under anti-retroviral treatment - 3 million worldwide - has attained an unprecedented level. A very significant decline of death arising from malaria has been observed in the regions of the world where good anti-malaria treatments are prescribed and where insecticide-treated bed nets have been widely distributed.

Nonetheless, it cannot be ignored that, midway through the Millennium Development Goals, a long road stretches ahead of us, and in all continents. I refer particularly to women, the most fragile and dispossessed groups, who are victims of stigmatisation and discrimination, as well as to all the preventive actions that remain necessary. I also refer to all the actions for strengthening health systems, and especially the establishment of suitable mechanisms for health risk coverage, which France considers extremely necessary, as well as the improvement of human resources in the area of health.

France is determined to maintain its place in his fight for health, justice and against poverty. It is a health imperative, but also an economic and social imperative, as well as a moral demand. And it is in this spirit that we are meeting the Administrative Council of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, which is being opened today in Delhi.

Louis-Charles Viossat is Ambassador in charge of action against AIDS and communicable diseases, representative of France at the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and the partnership with UNITAID, "Roll Back Malaria".

First Published: Nov 08, 2008 17:56 IST