AFRICA: BANGKOK SUMMIT REVEALS US AIDS PLAN AT ODDS WITH "ACCESS FOR ALL" FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Andre Banks 202-546 7961 Bangkok Summit Reveals US AIDS Plan at Odds with "Access for All" US AIDS Coordinator Put on Defensive at International AIDS Conference Wednesday, July 14, 2004 ( Washington, D.C.) - As 15,000 scientists, policy-makers, advocates and People Living with HIV/AIDS gather in Bangkok for the 15th International AIDS Conference, a rising chorus of critics are challenging the strategy of President Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Randall Tobias, US Global AIDS Coordinator, and other US officials in Bangkok are facing daily protests in Bangkok on issues ranging from the purchase of generic drugs through the President’s AIDS Plan to its highly controversial focus on abstinence-based prevention programs. "The international community has come to Bangkok under the banner of ‘Access for All’, but all too often the Administration’s AIDS plan is undermining this critical goal," said Salih Booker, Executive Director of Africa Action. "Blocking the purchase of cheap drugs for those in need, forcing trade agreements that hinder African countries’ ability to respond to the AIDS crisis, and channeling US funding into a cumbersome bureaucracy are key obstacles to an effective global response to the AIDS crisis." This week Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations criticized the stingy US commitment to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is widely acknowledged to be the most important multilateral vehicle in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Annan urged Washington to show the same commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS as the 'war on terror'. Also this week, French President Jacques Chirac described the Bush administration’s bilateral trade negotiations as "tantamount to blackmail," referring to continued US pressures that undermine African countries access to generic drugs. Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), an Africa Action board member and the only member of Congress attending the International AIDS Conference, took a tough position on the controversial question of prevention: "In an age where five million people are newly infected each year and women and girls too often do not have the choice to abstain, an abstinence until marriage program is not only irresponsible, it’s really inhumane." The International AIDS Conference, held every two years, is a key forum for policy-makers, civil society leaders, People Living with AIDS, and scientists to discuss critical developments in the field of HIV/AIDS. The conference in Bangkok also serves as an opportunity to debate and critique current strategies to fight AIDS around the world. At present, more than 42 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS, almost 30 million of these in Africa. Less than 2% of people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa have access to life-saving medicines. "In Bangkok, the US government has shown itself to be completely out-of-step with the growing international consensus on AIDS funding, treatment, and prevention," Booker added. "Millions people living with AIDS in Africa and their advocates demand support for the Global Fund. They demand access to cheap, generic drugs that can treat 4 times as many people - not expensive, brand name medicines from Bush’s drug company patrons. And they demand prevention policies that are proven and that address the specific needs of women - not policies that play to the conservative right in the US." The conference in Bangkok ends on Friday, July 16.