Mary Crewe


In 2000, at the XIII International AIDS Conference in Durban, Jeffrey Sachs spoke of the "shocking disregard" shown by the international community in its failure to respond to the AIDS epidemic. "How could the world," he asked, "have stood by for the first 20 years of this pandemic, letting it reach 35 to 40 million people before any real funding started?" Two years later, at the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, speakers again decried the world's inaction; Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), lamented, "Why are only 30,000 Africans getting antiretroviral treatment, when a hundred times that number need it?"

It was at the Barcelona Conference that an inspiring call was issued to make antiretroviral (ARV) treatment available to three million people in the developing world by the end of 2005. Providing treatment to three million-when twenty million are infected-does not seem like an ambitious plea. Yet, even this somewhat modest goal is unlikely to be reached, given the ongoing failure to mobilize international resources for the provision of HIV/AIDS drugs in the developing world. Just a few months ago, on the very day the World Health Organization launched its 5.5 billion dollar so-called "three by five" plan to meet the treatment challenge outlined in Barcelona in 2002," speculation about the organization's inability to meet the plan's financial requirements began to appear in the media-leaving many to wonder whether the next International AIDS Conference will be yet another reprise of the previous two.