Help for poorer nations focus of 12th AIDS conferenceJune 28, 1998
Web posted at: 1:49 p.m. EDT (1749 GMT)
GENEVA (CNN) -- More than 90 percent of the 30.6 million people in the world who have contracted HIV or full-blown AIDS live in developing nations where the most advanced treatments for the killer virus are largely unavailable.
Finding ways to get AIDS therapies to the world's poorest patients, and nations where the infection and death rates are still advancing rapidly, is the focus of the 12th World AIDS Conference. The six-day event opens here at 1530 GMT (11:30 a.m. EDT) on Sunday and runs through Friday.
More than 12,000 doctors, research scientists, activists, HIV patients, drug company representatives and journalists have gathered in Geneva for the conference.
The group last met two years ago and learned of dramatic breakthroughs in AIDS treatments, including the promise of an imminent vaccine or, possibly, a cure.
Spread the wealth
No such fanfare is expected this year. Instead, the focus is on how to share the limited wealth of therapies that have surfaced in recent years.
"The developed world has access to information, expertise, medical technology, and financial resources that, if shared, can help avert the global catastrophe that will result from allowing HIV/AIDS to spread through much of our planet unchecked," said conference chair Bernard Hirschel in a statement released before Sunday's opening.
In nations where advanced treatments are available, the outlook for AIDS patients is vastly improving. In some parts of the United States, mortality rates fell by 75 percent between 1994 and 1997.
A few new drugs are expected to be discussed at the conference, as well as a few studies. On Saturday, French researchers announced a study that found expectant mothers could virtually prevent the transmission of HIV to their newborns by taking AZT during pregnancy and delivering their infant through an early Cesarean section.
Some of the main topics scheduled for discussion include new prevention strategies, new and emerging epidemics and biomedical advances. Global rights issues and public funding priorities that impact the fight against AIDS are also on the agenda.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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