New Approach to Drugs in Toronto

Toronto has become the first city in the world to include harm reduction in its approach to drug use. At the very least this is a huge symbolic step forward for Canada (particularly since the regressive rulers in Ottawa are attempting failed Reagan-era dug policies) and for North America, since Toronto is the first government on the continent to endorse harm reduction.

The Vienna Declaration, which slams the criminalization of illicit drugs as a major factor fuelling HIV infection rates, came to the fore during this year’s AIDS conference. Its authors called on policy-makers around the world to refocus their approaches to illegal drugs and HIV-AIDS prevention – especially in light of new statistics that show HIV infection rates have climbed back to 1982 levels, largely thanks to infection in injection-drug users.

The declaration has thousands of prominent signatories – including doctors, epidemiologists and former heads of state, but few of the governments at whom it’s targeted. On Thursday, council passed a motion to endorse the declaration by a wide margin, 33 votes to 7.

Read more about it here.

If you’re in Toronto please vote for a mayoral candidate that supports caring about people so you can keep reading good things about your city.

Vaginal Gel Cuts HIV Infections by Half

The International Aids Conference is currently underway in Vienna right now and some exciting news has been announced there. A new vaginal gel containing an AIDs drug is excellent at curtailing HIV infections.

The gel was found to be both safe and acceptable when used once in the 12 hours before sex and once in the 12 hours after sex by women aged 18 to 40 years.

Salim Abdool Karim, one of the two leading co-researchers, told reporters in Vienna that the 889 women involved in the trial, conducted in the coastal city of Durban and a remote rural village, had largely used the gel as directed.

They were also given condoms and advice about sexually transmitted diseases, and tested for HIV once a month.

After 30 months, 98 women became infected with HIV – 38 in the group that got tenofovir in the gel and 60 in the group that got placebos.

HIV/AIDS Drug Patent Revoked

Doctors WIthout Borders has released a press release that says that an HIV/AIDS drug can now be made generically. This will lower the cost of the drug allowing more people access to it, this is very important for people living in the developing world. The company that held the patent, Gilead Sciences, claimed to have invented the drug tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF), which has been discredited based on prior art.

In India, the Indian Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS opposed Gilead’s patent application in May 2006 on similar grounds to PUBPAT’s challenge in the US. The evidence on which the US based its decision could therefore lead to the Indian patent office rejecting the patent application. Similarly, in Brazil, a patent opposition filed by HIV/AIDS groups and a government pharmaceutical laboratory could also mean a patent might not be granted for TDF in Brazil.

If a patent is not granted in these countries, generic manufacturers could freely manufacture and export generic versions of TDF without restrictions, leading to greater competition and therefore lower prices.

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