International Treatment Preparedness Summit Opens

Cape Town, South Africa -- A four-day International Treatment Preparedness Summit kicked off here on Thursday, March 13, with over 120 treatment activists drawn from 67 countries in attendance.

The meeting will identify ways to strengthen regional treatment literacy and advocacy efforts in order to pave way for the realization of the World Health Organization's (WHO) goal of providing drugs to three million people by 2005.

Participants will also examine and map out strategies for expanding access to HIV/AIDS treatment to the poorest communities in every continent.

Addressing delegates at the opening ceremony, Gregg Gonsalves of Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), which is co-organizing the meeting, noted that one of the objectives of the summit is to establish treatment literacy initiatives in countries where there are none. The meeting also aims to strengthen local and regional treatment advocacy and education efforts where few exist.

Zackie Achmat, Coordinator of South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), however noted that in order to achieve these objectives, all delegates present needed to focus on key issues. These issues include bridging the economic, scientific and political divide between the developed and developing countries, grassroots mobilization, expansion of treatment literacy and the use of the law to advance the principles of the right to health.

"In developing a global movement, our most important ally is good faith and science. You don't need a degree to benefit from science and we need to create scientific literacy about treatment issues within our communities. Our governments have misused science to deny people the right to medicines and the right to life, but it is our duty to use the best that science and technology has to offer to advance the cause of PLWHA" Achmat said.

He also noted that in mobilizing increased advocacy aimed at expanding access to treatment, there was need to exercise caution. "We have to be cautious of the tactics we use. Radical measures that work to expand access to treatment in one country may not be applicable in another country depending on the situation there. Each country has to take stock of the areas where they are weak, and by building upon that we can have a strong International Access to Treatment Movement," he said.

Other key issues discussed in the course of deliberations include ways of scaling up to provide treatment, and the state of treatment preparedness in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, South and Latin America as well as the Caribbean.