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ICEM HIV/AIDS e-bulletin - No. 5

30 January, 2006February 2006

Global Labour Forum to be organised at International AIDS Conference

As Canada prepares itself to host the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto, 13-18 August, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the impact and effectiveness of HIV/AIDS policies and actions on workers and workplace at national and international levels. The review will form the foundation of a Global Labour Forum on HIV/AIDS organised by the CLC in conjunction with the Conference.

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Labour Fund, launched by the CLC, works closely with unions that actively promote the rights of workers to fair treatment and provide workplace-based information on protection against the disease and prevention of its spread. Canadian unions, in cooperation with the Canadian International Development Agency, pioneer innovative and gender-sensitive AIDS prevention and advocacy campaigns in a number of developing countries.

(Source: CLC Press Release)

Information on the International AIDS Conference can be accessed at www.aids2006.org.

Second Line ARVs Too Costly for Patients Warns MSF

Now that first-line treatment has come down to less than US$200 per patient per year, concern is rising that an increasing number of HIV patients does not respond to first-line treatment anymore and has to move to second-line drugs, which are much more expensive and therefore harder to access.

Taking the example of Kenya, the international humanitarian organisation Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) says that for second-line drugs it has to pay US$ 1,400 per patient per year. In a clinic in South Africa, MSF is treating 58 patients on second-line drugs at the same cost as 550 on first-line drugs.

Expanding relatively affordable first-line treatment will inevitably lead to a higher demand for more expensive second-line treatment in the years to come. Failing to switch from first-line treatment, which has become ineffective due to side effects and growing drug resistance, to second-line drugs is a death sentence for the patient.

According to MSF, part of the problem lies in the continuing insistence of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on adherence to strict patent protection, as well as cumbersome regulations that developing countries have to follow to take advantage of concessions.

In early 2005, the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) was implemented in India and other developing countries that had not yet granted full pharmaceutical patents. This widespread patent protection is stifling the production of much-needed cheaper generics, which are as effective.

(Source: The East African, Nairobi, posted on www.allafrica.com on 4 January)

Half of Companies See Future AIDS Impact

Companies around the world are becoming increasingly concerned about AIDS, with 46% now expecting some impact in the next five years, as compared to 37% in the same study a year ago. The survey was released on 11 January by the Global Health Initiative of the World Economic Forum prior to the meeting of the WEF in Davos, Switzerland.

Although nearly half of the almost 11,000 corporate leaders in 117 countries surveyed recognised that HIV/AIDS would hurt their business in future, only 9% had conducted a quantitative risk assessment. Furthermore, it is only in regions where HIV prevalence exceeds 20% that the majority of firms have formal HIV/AIDS policies in place. Where the incidence is lower only a small proportion of companies have enacted policies.

(Source: WEF-GHI website. The survey entitled, “Business and HIV/AIDS: A Healthier Partnership?” can be accessed at www.weforum.org)

Once-a-Day AIDS Pill Shows Promise

A once-a-day AIDS treatment, the first of its kind, has been jointly developed by multinational drug firms Gilead and Bristol-Myers Squibb, and could soon outrun three-times-a-day regimens. According to research published in the latest New England Journal of Medicine, the manufacturers found the new drug especially effective in suppressing HIV viral loads and having fewer side effects than commonly used antiretrovirals. It is hoped to obtain approval by the end of 2006.

No cost of the treatment is yet available. AIDS treatment activists have demanded that the drug be marketed at an affordable price for developing countries where simplified regimens are most needed.

(Source: UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, posted on www.allafrica.com on 20 January)

China: Number of People Living with HIV/AIDS Down

Figures jointly released by China’s Ministry of Health, the WHO and UNAIDS on 25 January, estimated the number of people living with HIV/AIDS at 630,000 in 2005, down form an estimate of 840,000 in 2003. This is not a success story in prevention but rather due to errors in estimates of people getting infected by blood donations in previous years.

The survey therefore cautioned against complacency, saying the figure was still rising and the virus is spreading from high-risk groups to the general population. Experts have warned that China’s increasingly mobile population faces a broader risk as more infections occur through drug injection and sexual contact.

(Source: Reuters World Report, 25 January)


This year, the United Nations General Assembly will undertake a comprehensive review of the progress made in achieving the targets agreed by member states at the 2001 General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on HIV/AIDS, and set in place the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS. The review will take place during a high-level meeting at the UN Head Office in New York from 31 May to 2 June.

Update from ILOAIDS

You can access news from around the world on HIV/AIDS and the world of work on the ILOAIDS website http://www.ilo.org/public/english/protection/trav/
 and click on News from around the world or go directly to http://www.newsnow.co.uk/clients/ilo/results.html?keyword=AIDS 

Under Core Documents on the ILOAIDS website, you find the ILO Code of Practice and the Education and Training Manual implementing the ILO Code of Practice and the world of work.


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ICEM affiliates are already engaged in a wide range of activities, some have formal agreements with companies; others run education and awareness programmes at the workplace. To spread the information on new agreements and campaigns and to build on best practices, affiliates and project coordinators are invited to send news and information to [email protected]. Any feedback on the format and contents of the e-bulletin is also welcome.

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