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UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board :

Only one thing to say : the fight against AIDS is elsewhere.

07 - - 1999 dans Action 62

UNAIDS P.C.B. meeting was held in Geneva on June 28 & 29, gathering different political decision-makers, U.N. agencies and international NGOs on two objectives : to take stock of the activities achieved during the year and to settle UNAIDS’s workplan for the following year.

Act Up-Paris attended the meeting as an observer, willing to assess the contents of the debates and the problems raised in order to put an end to the alarming propagation of the epidemic and to help affected populations. We’ve wasted our time and our money.

It is clear that the people there present were there to put up a good show and congratulate each other ; it is clear that they just do not find in the current emergency sufficient motivation to leave their usual bureaucratic comfort. It is clear that the fight against AIDS is elsewhere.

The decision-makers announced, within the scope of a multisector-based offensive against the epidemic in Africa, their will to widen the range of the interlocutors and NGOs involved. They’ve never been able to support the PWAs fighting at the grassroot level ; what kind of guarantee can they give us that this will not just lead to a dissolution of the fight against AIDS in a general slump pigeonholed ‘Development’ ?

We have been fighting for years so that the money of the fight against AIDS in the developing countries should not be monopolised by consortiums of NGOs, with local or international political support, so-called fighters against the virus. This money must go to the people who are directly hit, the associations of PWAs. This objective will never have been achieved ; without money, with no treatments, the PWAs and their associations keep dying.

Of course, the officials of the fight against AIDS put those associations forward at conferences and international meetings ; but, they despise them or do without them. Nevertheless, these associations, in many countries, compensate the weaknesses and the inertia of the States and provide the minimum of psychological and medical support with derisory means. These associations are occasionally instrumentalised, exploited and never really supported, neither logistically, nor financially.

The fight against AIDS will never succeed without the PWAs, because they know, better than anybody else, what HIV infection represents in their countries, they know the reality of the illness, the state of the medical support and the failures of the health systems.

Nevertheless, just like 15 years ago in the Western countries, doctors, researchers, officials, politicians etc . prefer endlessly argue with each other. Those very same people have lost years and years to oppose prevention and access to treatments, with savings as sole concern, letting the epidemic spread, letting the people die and killing the efficacy of policies against AIDS. Those very same people see Africa as a wide therapeutical and vaccinal experimentation field and consider ethics as a brake upon progress. Those very same people refuse to face the reality and keep saying, shamelessly, that the prices of ARVs weigh more than the life of people and the consistency of their policies. Those very same people patronise, from the top of their stands or in front of cameras, claiming that it is so essential to involve people living with AIDS at any level of the fight, but they just have no interest about what really happens in the field. Who do they think they delude ?

We cannot stand anymore :

- UNAIDS’s cowardice, its inability to support ill people and its way to submit to American pressure ; two years ago, UNAIDS had at least had the courage to open the debate on access to treatments in developing countries, had had the will to manage in good conditions, the distribution of ARVs. But now it wavers under the pressure of its detractors, of those who tried to convince us that prevention would be sufficient to halt the epidemic and that ARVs cost more than the consequences of their inaction, of those who, after 30 years of deep thoughts and recommendations, keep being unable to implement any access to basic treatments ;

- USAIDS’s pretentiousness when it tries to impose its leadership in the fight against AIDS while despising PWAs’ experience and refusing to take part to the international solidarity for access to treatments ;

- The European Union’s hypocrisy, when, behind Lieve Fransen, and more and more set back from the public scene, it does everything to reduce its financial contribution to the fight against AIDS, while the reality of the epidemic, on the contrary, demands an increase of it ;

- The quarrels and competition between bilateral agencies, international bodies or ministries, and their inability to co-ordinate so as to be more efficient ;

We will not accept anymore that individuals with high salaries, living in Geneva, Brussels, Washington, Paris etc. and "working for" the fight against AIDS content themselves with stringing together meaningless bureaucratic sentences and spend their time asking us to be patient.

The epidemic is NOT waiting. 10% of new contaminations each year ; it is unacceptable.

How many thousands of people die everyday ? How many are contaminated with no hope for care and support ?

In the most hit countries, our friends HIV+ and PWAs fight and kick the bucket, with no treatments, no care, no premises for their associations, no phone, no fax machine, no computers, sometimes no electricity. Where people live with AIDS, the fight survives thanks to little charity. This can’t go on any longer.

How many associations could have got out their isolation and precarity if the huge sums of money that have been wasted in conferences purposely made futile - such as Geneva last July - had been used to support them ?

We, who live thanks to care and therapies in Western countries, will not remain silent in front of such hypocrisy and inertia. We will not wait for a next PCB of that kind to make ourselves heard. What the PWAs and the rest of the population are interested in are concrete measures which must be implemented to protect and help them : information, medical and psychosocial support, access to decent and sufficient testings.

We, Act Up-Paris, largely involved in the fight against AIDS, on the side of people living with AIDS in developping countries, we are angry. We demand that the decision-makers have the courage and the honesty to lead a real fight against the epidemic, or that they change job.

We demand :

- that the backers and sponsors (European Union, World Bank, USAID, Bilateral French, German, English, Dutch, Belgian, Japanese etc. Cooperations) put an end to their mean calculations and support the associations of PWAs fighting on the grassroot level, and that they invest the necessary financial means to develop access to health care and treatments ;

- that UNAIDS, its executive director and all its members, show a clear strategy and make recommendations, and clarify the means it intends to make use of to achieve ;

- that UNAIDS plays its role as a coordinator between all sponsors ;

- that UNAIDS, WHO and the World Bank refuse to submit to American pressure and blackmail leading them to foster the epidemic instead of supporting the populations ;

- that the European Union stop hiding, planning its disengagement in the fight against AIDS and multiply its budget by 100 so as to really face the epidemic.

The decision-makers and their herd of bureaucrats must choose their side : the fight or the epidemic. By refusing to hear and support people living with AIDS, they are accomplice of AIDS and of millions of deaths to come. Their incompetence does not relieve them from their responsibilities.


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