James Lamont, Tamar Kahn and Jonathan Katzenellenb
The United Nations (UN) has abandoned its policy of relying on governments to tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis in developing countries, saying it will now
help fund corporate initiatives to provide antiretroviral drugs to sufferers.
The decision may have big implications for SA, where, large mining companies have in the past few weeks announced that they intend rolling out their own
AIDS programmes. It may also presage a situation in which the SA government, which is reluctant to concede to most prevailing orthodoxies about the
pandemic, is simply bypassed by international agencies wishing to assist affected populations.
It is also an acknowledgement that firms have the resources to find health solutions where governments and NGOs are failing.
Peter Piot, executive director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, said at the World Summit on Sustainable Development yesterday that the $2bn UN
Global Fund for the treatment of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, would consider supporting corporate programmes that offered antiretroviral
treatment to employees and their dependants.
A few years ago it would have been unthinkable that a board of directors of a company would have considered treating HIV/AIDS. But now it's hitting the
bottom line and there must be a good economic argument (for providing drugs). It's a very important development, he said.
Piot's comments came as negotiators at the summit were preparing last night to hand over some of their unresolved battles to government
ministers. This raised the concern among many at the summit that any final
agreement would be one based on the lowest common denominator, with large gaps.
He criticised the summit for failing to place HIV/AIDS high on the agenda. Despite a plea by summit secretary-general Nitin Desai to delegates to
remember that sustainable development can be achieved only if the AIDS pandemic is addressed, AIDS has barely featured so far.
Piot said he was surprised that SA, as the host country, was not pushing the
AIDS agenda harder. He also criticised the New Partnership for Africa's Development, the vision for Africa's renewal, for relegating AIDS to a sub
subparagraph.(James Lamont, Tamar Kahn and Jonathan Katzenellenbogen: Business Day, 30