The leaders of Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, the United States, Canada and Japan are discussing the fight against infectious diseases, as well as energy security and education, at their current three-day meeting outside St. Petersburg.
On day two of the meeting, the G8 leaders adopted a joint statement on HIV/AIDS, avian influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and other deadly diseases that undermine "global development and the well-being of the world's population."
They highlighted the importance of "a vigorous response to the threat of infectious diseases," the main cause of deaths throughout the world, but particularly in developing countries, where the vast majority suffers from poverty and malnutrition and where medical treatment remains out of reach for many.
The G8 action plan to curb major infectious diseases covers international cooperation in surveillance and monitoring, intensifying scientific research and public awareness campaigns, and providing technical assistance and training to improve access to prevention and treatment for those in need. It also focuses on support for international organizations working to mitigate health consequences of emergencies and on promotion of efforts to increase worldwide production capacities for vaccines and antiviral drugs.
The leaders of the world's richest nations said efforts against HIV would remain a top priority. They reiterated their commitment to containing the spread of the virus that causes AIDS, as called for in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and to providing universal access to comprehensive prevention programs, treatment, care and support by 2010.
They welcomed a Russian proposal to establish a regional coordination mechanism to promote HIV vaccine development in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and pledged support for the development of innovative methods of prevention, such as microbicides.
The G8 leaders also said they would work to contain outbreaks of the pathogenic H5N1 bird flu virus in animals and to prevent a human influenza pandemic through global crisis management centers and international rapid response teams.
They called upon international donors to scale up contributions to efforts against infectious diseases in the third world, particularly polio and malaria. And they urged national governments "to enable developing countries without manufacturing capacity in the pharmaceutical sector to import medicines they need" and "to consider eliminating import tariffs and non-tariff barriers on medicines and medical devices to reduce further the cost of healthcare for the poor, and expand their access to effective treatments."
The G8 statement also spotlighted the destructive impact of natural disasters and industrial accidents, outlining the need for strengthened early warning systems, and prompt and coordinated relief efforts.