International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

July 20, 2004

July 20, 2004





**  The AIDS "tragedy of Africa" threatens to repeat itself in Asia.


**  Critics label the U.S. policy of tying some aid to abstinence programs "hardly realistic."


**  "A global pact is needed" to combat this "threat to development itself."




'The great epidemic'--  Commenting on the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, global dailies agreed that the "world is in an AIDS emergency."  The "terrible crisis that now grips sub-Saharan Africa" has already brought "entire societies...close to collapse."  The "grim reality" of Africa should serve as a "wake-up call" to Asia, where HIV/AIDS "is on the verge of causing a slaughter."  Some writers worried that "the globe is losing the fight" against the epidemic.  Kenya's independent Standard, however, asserted that "awareness and denial are no longer the problems."  A center-right German paper, calling international coordination "vital," contended that "a certain order and direction" was emerging in the anti-AIDS effort.  Brazil's right-of-center O Globo argued that "Asian governments may still restrain the epidemic" if they admit the problem "is about to get out of control" and act swiftly to counter it.  


U.S. is 'moralizing' on abstinence--  Editorialists split on how best to fight AIDS:  a "focus on drugs" or a campaign encouraging "monogamy, faithfulness and abstinence."  Liberal European dailies praised the "sharp increase in U.S. aid" but alleged the money was conditional on policies reflecting "President Bush's conservative views."  Critics called the U.S.' tying of some anti-AIDS funding to abstinence efforts "an inconsiderate missionary campaign" that is, in the words of Britain's conservative Daily Telegraph, "as likely to take off as the alcohol-free martini."  Calling Bush a "religious zealot," Germany's left-of-center Die Zeit maintained that the U.S. emphasis on abstinence was "obscene"; a Norwegian daily termed it "untenable."  Other analysts expressed concern that "the U.S. program has succumbed to commercial pressure," requiring FDA-approved generic drugs.  Western pharmaceuticals "want to hold onto their patents and ignore the global call for more affordable drugs," said one Asian paper. 


'No one does more' than the U.S.--  Some centrist and conservative papers countered that "it would be unfair to single out" the U.S. for criticism, with others, such as the conservative Times of Britain, noted that "the Bush administration [is] contributing almost all the funding so far earmarked" to get anti-AIDS drugs to those who need them.  Saudi Arabia's English- language Arab News faulted "HIV/AIDS industry professionals" who condemn the U.S. and Western pharmaceutical companies while they "duck the politically difficult moral issue" of "individual responsibility" for behavior that helps spread the virus.  Thailand's moderately conservative Bangkok Post took the "ever-vocal" protesters at the conference to task, calling confrontations "non-productive."  A New Zealand writer noted that whatever the best answer, the danger posed by AIDS needs "a more concerted and coordinated global response."


EDITOR:  Steven Wangsness


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 41reports from 19 countries, July 12-19, 2004.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.






The independent Financial Times" editorialized (7/14):  "The challenge of AIDS makes it all the more important that the rich countries fulfill the promises they made at the United Nations development finance conference in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002.  For example, the Bush administration promised a new $5 billion-a-year aid program, increasing its aid budget by about a third, and the next year pledged a large boost to overseas HIV/AIDS spending.  The total it has raised so far is a sharp increase in U.S. aid, but has fallen short of original promises, not least because the White House has periodically taken its eye off the ball in designing its programs and rallying Congressional support.  The U.S. still gives less than 0.2 per cent of national income in aid--very far from the 0.7 per cent target set by the United Nations decades ago....  Aid can help in encouraging growth and reducing poverty.  But it is not the only or indeed the main factor.  Better governance and freer trade are more important."


"The War On AIDS"


The conservative Times took this view (7/14):  "A curious piece of theater is unfolding in Bangkok.  As 20,000 scientists, policymakers and activists gather to share experiences and forge a global strategy on AIDS, they are constantly interrupted by demonstrators condemning two groups:  the Western pharmaceutical companies that produced the drugs capable of defeating HIV, a virus once considered a death sentence, and the Western governments, chief among them the Bush administration, contributing almost all the funding so far earmarked to get these drugs to those who need them....  But the hecklers’ tactic of seeking to put their critique of American AIDS policy at the top of the conference agenda is still more regrettable.  They argue that promoting sexual abstinence, which Mr. Bush favors, has no place in the fight against AIDS; and that his administration has conspired with its patrons in the pharmaceutical industry to keep up the price of AIDS drugs even in the developing world.  Neither claim stands up to close scrutiny, and both smack of shrill anti-Americanism."


"Sex, Please, We're Human"


The conservative Daily Telegraph had this to say (Internet version, 7/13):  "There is always something slightly comical when people in authority talk about sex, whether it's the headmaster giving a birds-and-bees talk to the new boys or world leaders giving advice on how to avoid sexual disease.  Deadly serious as the AIDS virus is, it was hard not to repress a schoolboy snigger when President George W. Bush said that the best way to stop the disease was 'to tell our children that abstinence is the only certain way to avoid contracting HIV'.  This is part of the American administration's ABC disease strategy:  abstinence, being faithful, and condom use.  Of course, the president is right, but he's hardly realistic.  As the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, pointed out at the International AIDS conference in Bangkok yesterday, it's impractical to hope for the A and B bits of the ABC plan to take off.  Far better to concentrate on the C bit, as he has:  in Uganda, condom use has gone up 28-fold in 15 years and infection has dropped from 30 per cent to just six per cent.  Sexual abstinence is as likely to take off as the chocolate radiator or the alcohol-free martini--be it in Africa, America or Britain....  The problem for...the American government is that their target audience--hormone-fueled youths across the world--are suffering from an extreme version of the Groucho Marx condition.  Members of the abstinence club--the terminally shy, the facially challenged, and the trainspotting community--are itching to hand in their membership cards."


FRANCE:  "The U.S. Alone Against The World"


Eric Favereau wrote in left-of-center Liberation (7/15):  “The welcome [U.S. AIDS Coordinator] Randall Tobias received from the AIDS activists outside the AIDS conference is emblematic of the quid pro quo which seems to have developed between the U.S. on one side and the rest of the world on the other....  The new six-way agreement between, among others, Brazil, Russia, China and Nigeria to produce and market generics to fight the AIDS epidemic signals a new and surprising solidarity.  A few minutes after the announcement, the U.S. representative Randall Tobias arrived at the conference but had not a single word about this original initiative....  He is in Bangkok to explain the ‘Bush initiative’ on AIDS.  It is a spectacular 15 billion dollar initiative spread out over five years.  But as the Americans themselves have said, they will invest these monies according to their own criteria, political and economic....  Tobias confirmed that ‘abstinence works.  So does fidelity’....  His approach on drugs and patents was also ambiguous:  ‘the sick, as it is the case in the West, must have access to drugs which are of the same quality and have the same effectiveness, whether they are generics or not’....  In other words they must have access to drugs ‘made in the U.S.A.’”


"America’s Policy Contested"


Louise de Torcy commented in Catholic La Croix (7/15):  “Yesterday it was the EU’s turn to ask Washington to stick to the international agreement signed in Doha and to give up on its bilateral approach....  In the American AIDS program, one third of the financial assistance is already earmarked for the promotion of sexual abstinence, a theme which is dear to President Bush.  It is being said that the U.S. bilateral agreements are excluding certain countries which are in dire need of help....  Another point of contention raised by the AIDS militants is their fear that the U.S. will use only expensive and patented drugs made by American pharmaceutical companies.  But the American authorities have already denied this point and said that the American plan allows bids from manufacturers of patented as well as generic drugs....  Yesterday Randall Tobias tried to ease the tension, saying that the U.S. supported all generics, ‘wherever they originated,’ but he did not clarify whether the U.S. would commit to the Doha agreement.”


GERMANY:  "Every Six Seconds AIDS"


Heidrun Graupner noted in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (7/17):  "There is no will to supply people infected with AIDS with the necessary drugs.  This will is nowhere visible.  The fight against AIDS is effective only where information, prevention, and treatment are available.  In Africa, however, even the medical helpers are dying.  Doctors from the poor countries in Africa and Eastern Europe are emigrating to the wealthy industrialized nations and are no longer available for the treatment of the sick....  Prevention means to offer fixers clean injections to prevent the virus from spreading.  The restrictive drug policy mainly in the eastern European nations makes this impossible.  But prevention mainly means advertising condoms.  They are still the best protection against the disease.  Thailand and Uganda with their falling infection rates are a model.  If Uganda's President Museveni is now questioning advertisements for condoms, then this could be based on the fatal influence of George W. Bush."


"The Great Epidemic"


Joachim Mueller-Jung penned the following for center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (7/17):  "The greatest danger in the fight against AIDS is political equanimity.  Fortunately, some things have changed in this respect over the past few months.  The international community with the UN at the helm, and the AIDS conference in Bangkok demonstrated this, has given the fight...a certain order and direction.  In this respect, international coordination is vital....  But coordination alone will not be sufficient if we have to deal with an epidemic like the AIDS epidemic.  It is not enough to demand 'access for all [to drugs]' thus suggesting that the adequate supply of cheap drugs alone will be the solution....  But 'access for all' will serve its purpose only...where the state also assumes its social responsibility.  Brazil, Thailand and Uganda are good examples of it....  But if one-third of the population, mainly the young people who are able to work die of AIDS, the epidemic will turn into an economic problem and to a security policy factor of insecurity.  It will also lead to the fact that there are no more people and skilled workers who could take care of the millions of sick people and orphans.  This alone is reason enough why the responsibility and the financial support of the West for coordinating this task for mankind should not let up."


"Political Priorities"


Center-right Thueringer Allgemeine of Erfurt judged (7/17):  "If the potential of threat were the only important factor, then the West would have to give up its fight against terror immediately and concentrate on the fight against AIDS.  But in reality, the priorities of politics are different.  While in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe, the epidemic is rampant, the West is turning away.  The alarming mood of the 80s has given way to the deceptive feeling that the insidious disease can be treated with drugs.  But one thing is still true:  AIDS is not curable.  It is up to the West to give up its resistance to the production of cheap generics.  This is also a question of economic reason.  Nobody can be interested in states collapsing because an entire generation has fallen victim to the virus.  The disaster has reached this dimension in some regions, and it came up despite the fact that not some stubbornly refused to realize it."


"Hypocritical Preacher"


Manuela Kessler commented in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (7/16):  "In the beginning were Americans.  Their soldiers turned prostitution into one of the most thriving economic sectors in South East Asia.  During the Vietnam War thousands of GIs tried to forget their war experience with sex, drugs and alcohol.  At the same time Washington is preaching abstinence.  How ironic!  Meanwhile, the American president is acting as if he wants to balance the use of military violence in Iraq by religiously motivated charity work.  A great AIDS campaign is supposed to boost America's reputation.  Bush promises to contribute 15 billion dollars to the global fight against AIDS within the next five years.  More would be necessary to care for 38 million HIV patients.  At least, it makes America by far the most generous donor.  But the majority in Bangkok is right to criticize the superpower's policy, since its aid reflects President Bush's conservative view.  Although promiscuity, homosexuality and drug addiction are widespread across the world, Bush does not believe in condoms and giving out free syringes to quell the epidemic.  Being a religious zealot, Bush believes he can teach people to abstain from extramarital sex.  At the same time, patent rights of pharmacy monopolists are sacred to him.  He bypasses the Doha agreement, allowing developing countries to produce generics, by bilateral free trade treaties.  The U.S. money is supposed to go to 15 countries that comply with certain conditions.  In other words, the aid subsidizes U.S. pharmaceuticals....  Given 20 million people who died of AIDS, his [Bush's] policy is seen as what it is:  obscene....  The number of dead people is rising every year.  Mankind is about to lose the fight against AIDS.  Europeans, who sided with aid organizations in Bangkok, have no reason puff themselves up.  There is no evidence that they take the epidemic seriously."


"Deadly Ignorance"


Bartholomaeus Grill said in center-left, weekly Die Zeit of Hamburg (7/15):  "Early in 2001 the CIA called HIV/AIDS the 'greatest threat' to democracy, security, and stability in Africa.  Then we had 9/11 and since then, the greatest threat has become different: global terrorism.  But billions of people living on earth do not feel threatened by terrorism, but by poverty, hunger, epidemics.  In their point of view, the most horrible weapon of mass destruction is called HIV.  Since its discovery in 1981, more than 200 million people have fallen victim to the disease.  We not need be prophets to forecast that the epidemics will have resulted in more victims in 20 years than WW II."


"Economic Rules"


Business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf noted (7/13):  "Productivity is on the decline in the least developed countries in particular.  For selfish reasons alone this should be of interest for the wealthy nations.  The AIDS-ravaged regions are the markets of tomorrow.  But while a 'World Conference' on AIDS meets in Bangkok, the virus continues its deadly course.  How can AIDS be fought?  The economic arsenal should be used more often in the fight against AIDS.  The terms efficiency, and cost and benefits should no longer be ostracized.  Western governments should insist on this.  They can refer to the Global Fund on AIDS, which is based on economic rules.  Already now, this fund offers one of the few rays of hopes in the shadow of the AIDS epidemic.  Those who want money from the Fund for projects at the AIDS front must be convincing in two senses:   first they must present a convincing medical and economic concept, a business plan.  And later they must present concrete successes, the performance.  And those who do not 'deliver' will no longer get money, since those who give money to the Fund want to see results--and these are mainly Western governments."


"New Laxness"


Centrist Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger of Cologne and centrist Mitteldeutsche Zeitung of Halle noted (7/13):  "In many regions, the virus lost its horror over the past few years.  A generation has grown up that has not experienced the hysteria about the disease that was diagnosed for the first time in the United States 20 years ago....  But in the meantime, AIDS seems to play a role only at special conferences or on World AIDS Day.  Preliminary success stories about vaccines and therapies have had their effect:  commercials for drugs that help survive the epidemic have created false hopes.  They try to lead the people in a normal life, but do not mention the partly horrendous side effects.  We should not fall back to the old dismal scenarios, but the new laxness is naïve if not extremely dangerous.  Today, it is no longer fatal to consider AIDS to be curable, but this hope is based on a mistake that is threatening to overshadow one's entire life."


"Costs Of AIDS"


Right-of-center Aachener Zeitung argued (7/13):  "A Zurich daily wondered on the occasion of the AIDS conference in Bangkok whether AIDS-infected people should not bear the costs of the disease on their own according to the principle that they are responsible for their own activities.  But AIDS makes the situation for the upholders of moral standards easy:  the fatal virus is spread through sex and infected injections.  But nobody has called [upon society] to bid farewell to its responsibility in the area of other diseases where we also have risk groups.  Smokers should pay for the treatment of lung cancer on their own, and people who hate any sports activities would have to pay up for a heart attack."


"The Forgotten Epidemic"


Dagmar Dehmer wrote in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (7/12):  "The disaster is under full swing and the assistance is slowly trying to catch up, but for millions of people south of the Sahara, this assistance will come too late anyway....  21 years after its discovery, the AIDS epidemic is spreading unimpeded....  UN attempts and the attempt of the Global Fund to fight AIDS...are honorable, but their argument that, if enough money is spent to get control over the disease, then money could be saved in the future, is not enough to get enough funding....  Hardly any government is willing to make long-term promises.  They do it only if they can hope for domestic profits, like the promise of the U.S. government to spend 15 billion dollars for the fight against AIDS, but only if it promotes sexual abstinence in developing nations....  That is why the Global Fund must beg for money at every AIDS conference to offer medical assistance for sick people in developing nations.  Maybe new dramatic figures on new infections in Asia and eastern Europe will now come to the rescue, since, in contrast to Africa, important markets for Europe and the United States are now involved.  This could probably inspire the industrialized nations to spend more....  But the Global Fund and UNAIDS can hardly achieve anything if the affected governments do not react.  They must act quickly and show consideration for their health care systems.  They must break taboos and help drug addicts get access to safe injections, and must advertise condoms.  The U.S. strategy should turn out to be a dead-end street."


RUSSIA:  "U.S. Program Draws Criticism"


Aleksandr Danil'chuk reported in reformist Gazeta (7/13):  "The U.S.-proposed program for fighting the 21st century plague through abstinence and condoms has been greeted with protests from the local population and delegates from other countries.  The United States is the world's leading power that considers combating AIDS a political issue and accounts for most of the world's charity organizations involved in funding AIDS prevention."


CZECH REPUBLIC:  "Bush’s Weapon Against AIDS Is Moralizing"


Tereza Nosalkova contended in the center-right Lidove noviny (7/13):  "President Bush’s request to the U.S. Congress to release 15 billion dollars to fight AIDS may raise hopes that much will be done to solve the problem of the AIDS pandemic.  There is, however, a catch to it.  Thirty percent of this money will be given to religious organizations, which principally give preference to abstinence in sexual behavior....  Different societies perceive sexuality differently and it is not appropriate to impose on them a different cultural model.  Bush’s fight therefore, at least by thirty percent, is more of an inconsiderate missionary campaign than anything else."


IRELAND:  "Tackling AIDS"


The center-left Irish Times editorialized (7/14):  "The 15th International AIDS Conference... should act as a wake-up call to Asia.  For too long there denial, stigma, and discrimination have delayed action to stem a disease that has infected 7.4 million and is in danger, in the words of the UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, of 'spinning out of control'.… The news that the U.S. is limiting its contribution [to the Global Fund] next year to $200 million is particularly disappointing....  The fund pays for 300 programs in 130 countries, while the majority of U.S. AIDS cash is being funneled to President Bush's $15 billion President's Emergency Plan.  This ambitious program aims to treat some 2 million with anti-retroviral drugs and prevent seven million new infections in the next five years.  But it is targeted at only 15 countries--although they account for 70 per cent of new infections--and its emphasis in prevention work is on abstinence instead of condoms, enraging many working in the field.  There are concerns too that the U.S. program has succumbed to commercial pressure in requiring the generic drugs it will pay for to be specifically approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  The U.S. denies its approach reflects another go-it-alone approach to world problems; but yesterday Mr. Annan urged it to show the same determination in fighting AIDS as it has displayed in fighting terrorism....  His call should be heeded."


NORWAY:  "An Epidemic That Can Be Stopped"


The newspaper of record Aftenposten commented (7/14):  "Information, build-up of public health services, distribution of medicines, and not least of all, complete openness about the causes of the disease and how it is spread are the way to proceed.  But HIV and AIDS are so wrapped up in prejudice, moral considerations and politics that it's not so easy to achieve.  That's what the conference has shown this time, just like the conference in Barcelona two years ago....  The U.S., which to its credit has earmarked 15 billion dollars for the fight against HIV and AIDS, at the same time has demanded that a large part of the money should go for information about abstinence as the best medicine....  Of course there is nothing wrong with either abstinence or faithfulness in marriage or relationships.  Far from it.  But we'll get the best results of an initiative only when we first accept reality.  And the reality that HIV and AIDS represent is not pretty.  But we have to take that reality to heart if we really are going to act to change it."


"The Fight Against AIDS"


The independent Dagbladet editorialized (7/13):  "There still is no miracle cure for AIDS.  It's not just a matter of pumping out medicine--the medicine can itself be fatal, especially if used without the supervision of qualified health personnel.  But if one is to try to reduce the number of newly infected cases, then it's untenable to follow the line being supported by the Vatican and the U.S.--the so-called 'ABC strategy'....  The strategy may be useful to those who view AIDS as a punishment from higher powers...but not for those who want to get a handle of the problem here on earth.  The strategy contributes to stigmatization and non-disclosure; AIDS to a large degree is connected to women's inferior position in many societies....  Development Minister Hilde Frafjord Johnson deserves praise for distancing herself from those who believe that AIDS is a moral problem.  But there's still something puzzling about her criticism, so long as she doesn't dare to direct it right at the Bush Administration, where the most prominent advocates of a reactionary AIDS policy are sitting."




SAUDI ARABIA:  "Shooting The Messenger"


The pro-government, English-language Arab News editorialized (Internet version, 7/13):  "As delegates gathered in the Thai capital Bangkok for the 15th international HIV/AIDS conference which began yesterday, there was widespread criticism of the smaller than usual size of the U.S. delegation.  Some participants were quick to condemn the Bush administration for not taking the scourge seriously enough and failing to assume the lead in the fight to stop its spread.  Such claims are wrong.  No other country is committing more money to the battle against HIV/AIDS than the U.S.  The American taxpayer is spending $15 billion over five years to help combat the condition.  This dwarfs the commitment from any other government.  It is therefore extremely worrying to see that some influential HIV/AIDS activists have seized the opportunity of the Bangkok summit to play politics and aim a totally unmerited kick at the United States.  Far more deserving of censure are those states smitten with HIV/AIDS who are failing to take active measures to stop the spread.  Outstanding among these is South Africa, whose President Thabo Mbeki seems still to cling to his original notion that HIV/AIDS is not really a problem.  In this purblind behavior, South Africa’s leadership is making a terrible error which deserves the strongest condemnation.  It seems that the real reason that Washington has been singled out for such strident criticism is the conservative emphasis that the U.S. administration has chosen to confront the challenge. President Bush and his advisers believe that the ABC approach, 'Abstinence', 'Be Faithful' and 'Condoms' is key to the defeat of HIV/AIDS....  But what it seems the HIV/AIDS professionals really want to focus their resources on are drugs to slow the onset of the disease once contracted.  While clearly anything to relieve the consequences of the condition is welcome, the American strategy actually attacks the disaster at its very roots....  There is a very large degree of individual responsibility involved in this health crisis.  But that does not suit the HIV/AIDS industry professionals, who would rather duck the politically difficult moral issue and blame easier targets like the United States, despite its mammoth contribution to the struggle.  It is because they do not like the Bush White House message that the HIV/AIDS industry is trying to shoot the messenger."




AUSTRALIA:  "No Truce Possible In War Against AIDS"


The national conservative Australian (7/12):  "HIV/AIDS is on the rise throughout the Asia-Pacific region, with more than 7.4 million people infected….  An enormous breakthrough in the fight against AIDS in developing countries arrived last year when the World Trade Organization agreed to allow them to ignore patents on drugs and import cheap generic copies from countries such as India. Over time this reform, along with the direct donation of drugs by richer countries, will help to sort out the appalling imbalance between those receiving anti-retroviral drugs in the West and in the developing world."


INDONESIA:  "Bangkok’s Grim Reminder"


The independent English-language Jakarta Post opined (7/16):  "Now, however, proof has come from the just-concluded 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok to debunk the old truism that silence is golden.  HIV and AIDS can happen anywhere, to anyone careless enough to fail to take the proper precautions where carefulness is imperative--such as in sexual relations or injecting drug use.  Silence and ignorance can certainly contribute to the growth of the epidemic.  According to a report released this week by the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in cooperation with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), more than 10 million people in the Asia-Pacific region could be infected with HIV by the end of the decade, unless prompt action is taken--a hefty addition to the approximately 7 million people in those regions estimated to be already infected.  The economic cost that such an addition would involve could be as high as U.S.$17.5 billion a year....  While under current economic and political circumstances it is difficult to hope that all those needs can be provided for, it is certainly not too much to hope that a fitting solution can be found to take on the HIV/AIDS epidemic with all the means that are available, and without delay.”


"The World Is In An AIDS Emergency"


Independent Suara Pembaruan noted (7/15):  "The HIV/AIDS problem should be dealt with seriously if we do not want the threat of the disease to become a real problem in the future.  Targets that must be achieved simultaneously are:  First, integrated efforts to prevent the disease from spreading.  Second, provide help for those having been invented.  The efforts must be seriously prepared and implemented.  Unfortunately, so far the efforts have not yet been integrated.  For example, campaigns for the use of condoms, which is considered as quite effective to prevent the spreading of the disease, in Indonesia people discuss more on the controversy rather than the efforts of preventing the disease....  Regarding people with AIDS/HIV, the government and the community must be more open in giving help, at least preventing discrimination and stigma that do not help prevention efforts.  Stigma on morality is not always appropriate for them since many people with AIDS/HIV are housewives and children.  What they need is openness so that they do not spread the virus and help in obtaining therapy.”


"AIDS Conference"


Leading independent daily Kompas noted (7/13):  “It’s very reasonable if we give attention to the AIDS Conference in Bangkok as from this conference we gain our consciousness of vulnerability of the region’s condition.  According to the UN’s body for AIDS early this July, the Asian continent was indicated as having the fastest HIV/AIDS growth rate.  A very significant increase occurred in three countries:  China, Indonesia, and Vietnam.  It is a serious issue, since the total number of the populations of the three countries counts for almost half of the total number of Asia’s population....  The roles of politicians and influential figures in one country are very great.  If there is a Nelson Mandela or Mbeki, as an example of figures that give attention to the control of HIV/AIDS problems, the encouraging impact would be seen immediately.  Attention, funds, and support to the public will be very significant.  There will be a decrease in the total number of victims, there will be preventive efforts, and there will be mutual awareness.”


MALAYSIA:  "Fighting AIDS"


The government-influenced, English-language New Straits Times editorialized (Internet version, 7/13):  "The news is grim.  According to a report, 1.1 million people in Asia became infected with HIV last year alone--more than any previous year.  Yet there is hope, but only if, according to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who opened the largest global AIDS forum in Bangkok on Sunday, more governments heed the call not to cut funding on research and medical assistance.  Dark though the cloud may be, there is some light around the edges.  Many countries are recording a measure of success in managing the disease.  In Malaysia, the number of HIV cases in the country last year recorded a three per cent drop from 6,978 in 2002 to 6,756. In the same period, the number of AIDS cases declined by almost 10 per cent from 1,193 to 1,076.  These small advances nevertheless give hope to the likes of NGOs, private individuals and institutions and government bodies to continue their good work.  For as Annan has said, 'AIDS is more than a health crisis.  It is a threat to development itself.'  Even for countries like Thailand, which has managed to drop its adult HIV prevalence to its lowest level from 2.3 per cent in 1995--the height of the crisis--to 1.54 per cent in 2004, and reduced HIV cases from 143,000 in 1991 to 19,000 in 2003, there is a need to be constantly vigilant, and to mobilize all resources before it is too late.  That is why it is imperative that as we treat the infected and educate others to avoid getting it.  For starters, on the home front, since there is an alarming increase in the number of women with AIDS, it is crucial that they know their rights, and be helped to exercise them.  Ultimately, as this forum will signify, no one country can now do it alone.  A global pact is needed to fight this threat to health."


NEW ZEALAND:  "Action On AIDS Vital For All The World"


The center-left New Zealand Herald commented (Internet version, 7/17):  "The global fight against AIDS can harbor no complacency....  The United States...put it aptly.  AIDS...was 'the greatest threat of mass destruction on the face of the planet in the present age'.  Yet behind such rhetoric, there lay hints that complacency may, indeed, have taken hold.  The very strength of the U.S. statement reflected conference criticism of its drug and funding policies.  Activists and AIDS sufferers stressed that the U.S. was not addressing [AIDS] seriously....  It would be unfair to single out the U.S., however.  The threat seems underrated in this and probably every country where the prevalence is low and the danger is perceived as being restricted to a limited number of high-risk groups.  That view disregards the grim reality of Africa, south and south-east Asia and the Caribbean, where much of the population is at risk.  And from where there is a frightening potential for the disease to spread....  This danger, if nothing else, should galvanize a more concerted and coordinated global response....  At present, entire societies, especially in Africa, are close to collapse.  In too many areas, knowledge about the illness is scant, or corrupted by myth.  Too many anti-AIDS strategies have been misdirected or failed to help those most at risk.  There has been a tardy response to a change that sees the virus taking greater hold among women because of their social and biological vulnerability.  The Bangkok conference should, at the very least, have delivered a much-needed focus to these issues.  The anger directed at those deemed as belittling the problem was warranted.  As was the ridiculing of unrealistic responses, such as the Bush administration's plea for sexual abstinence.  A commitment to programs that provide education and foster new attitudes is overdue--for the sake of all the world."


THAILAND:  "Uniting The World Against HIV/AIDS"


The independent, English-language Nation editorialized (7/19):  “America, which came under intense criticism during the conference and at other major events for its drug-funding for HIV/AIDS programs being tied to the purchase of only brand-name drugs, has just shown to the international community how to turn policy and commitments into action.  Washington has offered to buy low-cost, generic version of anti-AIDS drug from Thailand for poor patients in Africa, a move that should set an example for other wealthy nations.  It's a good initiative, but the plan must be accompanied by comprehensive measures, including help in training healthcare workers.”


"AIDS Meet Lacked A Dose Of Compromise"


The top-circulation, moderately conservative, English-language Bangkok Post took this view (7/19):  “It is too early to measure the success of the XV AIDS Conference in terms of long-term achievement....  The issues were similar to those discussed in Barcelona two years ago and Durban four years ago, which shows how hard it is to move forward.  Cancun, Barcelona, Durban, Bangkok, Johannesburg--these are exotic destinations yet delegates fail to be inspired and all too often trot out the same lengthy speeches, wake-up calls and tired position papers which say nothing new.  And that is if the ever-vocal protesters allow them to make their point.  The name of their game is blame.  What exactly was achieved by drowning out the U.S. representative's speech with boos, insulting our prime minister while he was speaking and shouting down the chief of Pfizer so he couldn't give his speech or answer questions?  Why deny them the right of free speech?...  Confrontations are non-productive.  And the squabbling in public over money and 'turf' was demeaning.  The world has become a selfish place and national interests are being given precedence over global interests.  The dilemma is how to get these to converge because until they do, we can forget about solving the major problems plaguing our planet and that includes the HIV/AIDS pandemic....  One alternative is to prune down the size of these expensive talking shops.  It would be difficult to get 17,000 people to agree on the time of day, let alone a cure for what ails humankind.  We should learn this lesson and apply it at the next meeting in Toronto in 2006.”


"Access To All Is More Than A Forum Theme"


The lead editorial in the top-circulation, moderately-conservative, English-language Bangkok Post read (7/15):  "Kofi Annan hit the nail on the head when he called on the U.S. to devote as much attention, and accompanying funds, to HIV/AIDS as it does to terrorism and WMD....  It is unfortunate that the U.S. is under-represented at the Bangkok conference.  A strong presence would have given the meeting more meaning and made it more productive.  One congressman has reportedly attended the conference, but the American scientists whose research and development on HIV/AIDS would have benefited the conference are nowhere to be seen.  As the global superpower, America has the capability and the moral responsibility to take the lead in fighting AIDS and rallying support from the G-8 wealthy nations similar to what it did with the fight against terrorism....  Kudos should go to the local and international non-governmental organizations, civic groups and AIDS activists, among them Hollywood actors Richard Gere and Ashley Judd and singer Coco Lee, for their tireless resolve in putting pressure on government leaders, especially those in developed countries, to do more--rather than just talk--to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in developing countries.  Drug companies which hold the patents on HIV/AIDS drugs also have a crucial role to play....  The protests during this week's conference against some drug companies should not be allowed to stand in the way of peaceful, reasoned discussions between the companies and those who advocate greater 'access to all,' to paraphrase the conference theme, towards lifting the death sentence now imposed on many of the world's poor who become victims of HIV/AIDS.”


"Developing World Is Getting Together"


The independent, English-language Nation observed (7/14):  “Drug companies in rich countries want to hold onto their patents and ignore the global call for more affordable drugs.  At the ongoing AIDS conference here, representatives of some of the world’s pharmaceutical giants and civil society organizations have clashed at every forum, launching into heated verbal exchanges at meeting halls and exhibition areas.  Drug companies continue to argue that they need profit incentives to propel further investment in the research and development of new drugs.  They say that cutting out financial incentives to producing life-saving drugs will hamper the further advancement in the quest for a cure for AIDS and, indeed, other diseases for which there are currently no cures.  Let’s hope that the new grouping of countries will collectively change the equation governing the way developing countries bargain with the global pharmaceutical giants.  Perhaps both sides will learn to accommodate one another’s needs and concerns.  There is no reason that a sufficiently attractive rate of return for investments in drug research and the ability to get affordable medicines to people with HIV/AIDS should remain mutually exclusive.”


"AIDS Demands Setting Aside The Differences"


Top-circulation, moderately conservative, English-language Bangkok Post commented (7/13):  "The first two days of the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok make it difficult to be hopeful about the chances of defeating the threatening pandemic.  UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan challenged world leaders to step up policies to deal with AIDS, but they were not present to hear him....  The 20,000 delegates, from national leaders to health workers, must do better because they are losing the fight.  Without international cooperation, the disease will advance.  It is important to allow all contributions to the 15th annual conference, particularly in light of its official theme calling for 'access for all.'  There must be a full hearing, and debate if necessary, from all participants.  There are unacceptable plans by some activist groups to try to stop certain speeches.  Plans to halt a presentation by the representative of the United States, on the grounds that the U.S. provides the most funds to fight AIDS but should provide more, are counter-productive....  The United States is under fire for backing programs of sexual abstinence and loving, faithful marriages over projects to distribute condoms.  By coincidence, one of the few foreign leaders to come to Bangkok, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, said the same thing.  There seems plenty of room for both programs.  The 'either-or' choice that some activists offer is unhelpful to the single cause that should be shared by all 20,000 people who have come together in Bangkok for the conference sponsored jointly by the International AIDS Society and Thailand."


"Leader Of Accessibility"


Business-oriented Thai-language Post Today editorialized read (7/13):  “Declared commitments or financial contributions alone are not enough since the fate of AIDS patients also depends on other factors.  What keeps NGOs and academics worried is trade liberalization which would render drugs inaccessible for AIDS patients....  The topic of the 15th International AIDS Conference is ‘access for all’.  But that seems to be only rhetoric that has not been put into practice....  On access to drugs, we believe that if the contents of the Thai-U.S. Free Trade Agreement talks are similar to those between the U.S. and Singapore, AIDS patients’ access to drugs would be difficult.”


"PM Makes Sure He Doesn’t Miss The HIV/AIDS Bandwagon"


Kavi Chongkittavorn commented in the independent, English-language Nation (7/12):  “For Thailand it is imperative to put a few messages across with the leaders’ meetings.  Now, [Prime Minister] Thaksin has to be content with whoever decided to come.  [Senator] Mechai says he has told Thaksin that education relating to HIV/AIDS among young people should be given top priority.  With the government’s lackadaisical attitude, more and more young people are being exposed to HIV/AIDS through ignorance and casual sex.  They have become a high-risk group. Thai and international AIDS experts have repeated this message....  Mechai and other experts fear that Thailand’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS are losing steam because of bureaucratic red tape and insufficient funds....  If the implementation of HIV/AIDS programs continues to be bogged down by bureaucratic obstacles and lack of political will, the HIV/AIDS crisis could become Thaksin’s Waterloo.”




INDIA:  "Five Billions Dollars, But Not Enough"


Amit Ukil wrote in the centrist Telegraph (7/13):  "The world is now spending $5 billion annually on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, which is still less than half of what is required.  With 38 million positive people already, and a daily addition of 5,000 new infections, the annual estimated requirement by 2007 will be $20 billion.  How is all this money being accounted for?  Questions arise over the transparency of funding mechanisms, and whether each dollar spent is achieving the purpose it was allocated for....  With so many funding agencies adopting their own methods and norms of evaluation, there is a lack of uniformity in maintaining standards.  While the World Bank and UN agencies have their own norms, organizations affiliated to governments of donor-countries, like USAID and the DFID of UK, have theirs....  Donors and recipients must also confront the underlying structural barriers, both political and legal, for the effective deployment of funds....  The formation of the Global Fund to fight TB, malaria and AIDS is a step to remove these obstacles."


"Not By Truth Alone"


The centrist Telegraph noted (7/13):  "The Bangkok conference has revived the 'condom-use versus abstinence' debate over the prevention of HIV/AIDS.  With the Bush administration trying to push abstinence--requiring a third of all prevention funds to go to 'abstinence until marriage' programs--this has become a highly politicized issue.  India will have to think this through very clearly.  The damaging legacy of sexual prudery...has to be negated effectively, before the right kind of awareness can be fostered and sustained.  Any program premised on denial and repression is bound to fail.  It is the duty of the state to inform citizens about safer sex, and not to sermonize on monogamy and fidelity.  The government must also make up its mind about homosexuality, and stop dilly-dallying over...the Indian Penal Code.  Men in India, as anywhere else in the world, often choose to have sex with other men.  Anal sex between men is a high-risk activity, and some of these men also have sex with, or are married to, women.  These are important facts in the Indian AIDS epidemiology, and decriminalizing homosexuality is a crucial step towards reckoning with them in a realistic and civilized way.  But HIV/AIDS is not just about sex.  India cannot afford to forget about intravenous drug-users and infected blood.  Here again, criminalizing 'drug addicts' will hardly help.  With around 5.1 million people living with HIV in India--the largest number of people infected outside South Africa--a lot of aid is now pouring into the country.  The proper management of this money, and ensuring everybody's access to the medical services it makes possible, are what could prevent India from tipping over towards the terrible crisis that now grips sub-Saharan Africa."






Pro-government, Afro-centric Sowetan remarked (7/15):  “President Yoweri Museveni...caused a stir this when at the International Conference on AIDS when he suggested that the most effective way of fighting the disease--which is caused by the HI virus--is to abstain from having pre-marital sex....  The focus on the drugs has de-emphasized the importance of other strategies used in fight the disease.  Apart from AIDS awareness and the ABC campaigns, it is important that there are make these drugs easily available to those who need them....  Museveni’s remarks may have elicited laughter and scorn.  But they are very important given the emerging lessons from countries that have treatment programs.”


KENYA:  "AIDS:  Take Fight To The Next Level" 


The independent Standard held (7/13):  "As the 15th international AIDS conference enters its third day today in Bangkok, Thailand, the world knows awareness and denial are no longer the problems....  Now, the challenge, and that is what the Bangkok conference is about, is ensuring faster, more flexible and aggressive strategies of making available treatment to all who need it."


"Find Balance In AIDS War"


Investigative, sometimes sensational People remarked (7/13):  "Some of the issues that have taken center stage at the ongoing 15th International AIDS Conference, which opened in Bangkok, Thailand, on Sunday, include the issue of making available cheaper generic drugs for the poor.  And surprisingly, the United States has found itself on the wrong side of activists and top global AIDS officials who, while appreciating Washington’s massive financial contribution to the war against the scourge in developing countries, are unhappy with the way it is treating the issue of generics.  According to Medicins Sans Frontiers, which is among those countries, including in Africa, the use of anti-retroviral drugs is one of the successful ways of managing the scourge.  The tragedy is that availability of cheaper ARVs is being hampered by Western nations’ failure to allow production and purchase of cheaper generics."


UGANDA:  "Has President Museveni Made A U-turn On AIDS?"


The state-owned New Vision stated (7/16):  "During his recent address to the AIDS conference in Bangkok, Thailand, President Yoweri Museveni apparently abandoned his ABC strategy in combating AIDS and seems to have embraced the American option of monogamy, faithfulness and abstinence.  Since 1986 President Yoweri Museveni has claimed that condom use has brought down the AIDS infection rate, despite the stiff opposition from the Catholic Church and other moralists.  This U-turn on the president’s part could be interpreted as one strategy by his government to access huge amount of dollars now being made available by U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration.  This shift in goal posts is going to have a negative impact on the overall struggle against HIV."




ARGENTINA:  "The Global Fight Against AIDS"


Daily-of-record La Nacion editorialized (7/14):  "Global data indicates that six million people have died [of AIDS] during the past two years.  With this evidence, this highly serious problem must be acknowledged in its double dimension:  first, regarding the need for prevention, and second, regarding the treatment of those suffering the disease....  The report highlights that the disease is spreading in Asia....  In sub-Saharan Africa we see the most painful scenario, with 25 million infected.  Even in the developed countries the epidemic is spreading--in North America as well as Europe-- particularly among people over 30 years old.  Instead, in the developing countries, most sick people are under 30....  In Latin America and the Caribbean there are 2 million infected and 250,000 people became ill with the disease in 2003....  Undoubtedly, the international community is facing a major challenge.  Despite the efforts made at different levels and by different organizations aimed at increasing the financial resources to support the needs of this fight, everything that's been done so far isn't enough.  The HIV virus spreads as a consequence of ignorance, poverty, evil ways and prejudice.  Today, the goal of the global organization is to have 3 million sick people cooperating next year in the design, implementation and monitoring of prevention programs.  It’s a plausible decision, aimed at reducing the barriers that block further progress in prevention and attention."


BRAZIL:  "A Disaster"


Right-of-center O Globo editorialized (7/16):  “Here in the 21st Century when science has discovered the process of HIV infection, AIDS is on the verge of causing a slaughter in Asia....  The African tragedy may be repeated in Asia, where ignorance and lack of investment to fight the disease have huge indirect costs, causing imbalances in shrinking economies, welfare systems and public finances....  Asian governments may still restrain the epidemic, if they act fast....  Recognizing the full extent of the problem and to admit the epidemic is about to get out of essential and indispensable.  Inaction now would be the recipe for disaster.”


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