The global fight against HIV/AIDS highlights a “wider argument” about development issues, namely that the “prospects for advance in poor countries depend not just on programs launched within their borders, but also on programs launched in the rich world,” a Washington Post editorial says.
According to the editorial, the XVI International AIDS Conference, held last week in Toronto, “confirmed” the relationship.
For example, previously most experts said they believed that providing antiretroviral treatment in developing countries “would be folly,” and they “insisted that scarce HIV budgets” be harnessed for prevention, the editorial says.
However, by 2003, drug companies had “cut prices and tolerate[d] cheap generics,” and “lliterate people had proved capable of taking medicines punctually,” according to the editorial.
In addition, preventing HIV involved “encourag[ing] people to get tested for the virus - which in turn made it essential to offer the incentive of treatment,” the editorial says.
The development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine and microbicides - which include a range of products such as gels, films and sponges that could help prevent the sexual transmission of HIV and other infections - “would be the product of research conducted mainly in U.S. and European laboratories,” the editorial says, adding, “It’s a valuable lesson that goes beyond the AIDS virus, because other aspects of development can also be advanced with new technologies or practices adopted in rich countries.”
If the battles against underdevelopment and HIV/AIDS “teach anything, it is that rich and poor countries are interdependent, that programs launched by outsiders in poor countries are tough to implement, and that whatever can be done at home can be mutually beneficial and therefore a priority,” the editorial concludes (Washington Post, 8/25).
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD