This comes at a moment when the results of concerted efforts have started to pay off. Mortality due to AIDS is declining in some countries, prevention programs mean that fewer newborns are infected, there is significantly better treatment of AIDS-related diseases and more and more people are gaining hope of continuing to live despite being diagnosed HIV-positive, which used to be the equivalent of a death sentence.
But the fight is not over, nor have we, the donor countries, done enough to reach the majority of people living with HIV and AIDS. Greater efforts are needed and more money must be invested in health care for the world's poor. It is not acceptable that the most vulnerable are once again those who have to suffer because of the financial crisis, expensive wars and the West's feeling that it has already done enough.
A first step toward improving the situation would be a so-called patent pool for anti-retroviral drugs. Such an entity would bring together the patent rights for HIV drugs in developing countries. Under the program, drug companies would still get their royalties and would share their patents with generic drug manufacturers and research institutions. These could then produce cheaper drugs, and even work on developing desperately needed pediatric formulations for ARVs to treat children living with HIV. Everyone would win.
The decision about such a patent pool currently lies with the pharmaceutical companies. Are they willing to give up some control over patents in developing countries? MSF believes there is no alternative. Life-saving drugs are different from Hollywood movies or music -- access to them must not be blocked by intellectual property rights. You can help by joining MSF's "Make It Happen" campaign and writing to drug companies to urge them to put patents in the pool.
In Germany, the new government has yet to demonstrate whether it is committed to fulfill the promises made at the G-8 summits in Germany and Japan in 2007 and 2008. The G-8 countries promised to significantly increase the financial efforts to reach the goal of universal access for treatment and care by 2010. During the G-8 summit 2007 in Heiligendamm, the German government alone pledged to provide €4 billion by 2015 to help treat infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS. But we are still very far away from this target.
We urge Chancellor Angela Merkel and Development Minister Dirk Niebel to keep Germany's promises, and to increase German spending on health care in developing countries to about €1 billion annually. It is time to deliver.
Frank Dörner is general director of the German office of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières).