India, SA, UK pledges support for developing AIDS vaccines


Washington : India, Britain and South Africa have pledged their support to an intensified search for new vaccines to prevent AIDS and other major infectious diseases, agreeing that more needs to be done to expand financing for vaccine research and development (R&D).

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Finance Ministers of India, the UK and South Africa, who gathered here, proposed forming a working group of government representatives and technical experts to explore the optimal mix of financing mechanisms. The working group is to report back to the ministers as early as possible.

The meeting was held at the initiative of India’s Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

“As a virus that attacks young adults and breadwinners, the bulk of the working population, AIDS has a devastating effect on the financial well-being of countries that are hardest hit by the epidemic,” says the International Aids Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) a global non-profit organisation working on developing a vaccine.

In fact, in heavily affected countries — where HIV prevalence equals or exceeds 20 per cent — the rate of growth of gross domestic product has been estimated to be 1.5 to 2.6 per cent lower, meaning that national wealth in 20 years could be 40 to 60 per cent lower than it would have been in the absence of the virus, it says.

“Historically, no viral epidemic has been defeated in the absence of a vaccine. A vaccine is not a sufficient answer to the AIDS challenge, but it is a necessary answer. While complementary action will still be required, the need for an AIDS vaccine is undeniable,” Chidambaram said.