Magazine article World Health Report


Magazine article World Health Report


Article excerpt

This report began with the story of Joseph Jeune, a 26-year-old peasant farmer in Haiti. It is a story of how hope can triumph over despair, and it also is an example of how people can fight back successfully against HIV/AIDS.

This is a crucial moment in the history of HIV/AIDS, and an unprecedented opportunity to alter its course. The most important message of this report is that, today, the international community has the chance to change the history of health for generations to come and to open the door to better health for all.

The World Health Report 2004 has chronicled the global spread of HIV/AIDS over the last quarter of a century. It has also traced the efforts of advocacy groups, civil society organizations, community health care workers, researchers and many others to control it and to combat its many side-effects, including stigma and discrimination. Despite those often heroic efforts, more than 20 million people have died from HIV/AIDS and an estimated 34-46 million others are now infected with the causative virus, for which there is as yet no vaccine and no cure.

But there is treatment. Joseph Jeune owes his life to it, as do many others. The pictures of Joseph before and after treatment illustrate what can be done. Antiretroviral therapy saved him from an early grave and enabled him to return to work in his fields and care for his family.

Effectively tackling HIV/AIDS is the world's most urgent public health challenge. In advocating a comprehensive strategy which links prevention, treatment, care and support, this report makes a special case for treatment, which has been the most neglected element in most developing countries.

Treatment is the key to change. It is now possible to save the lives of millions of people who need that treatment but do not yet have access to it. Almost 6 million people now need antiretroviral drugs but only about 400 000 received them in 2003. This knowledge underpins the commitment of WHO and its partners to help provide 3 million people in developing countries with antiretroviral therapy by the end of 2005 - and not to stop there.

The treatment expansion initiative far outreaches the capacities of any single organization. …

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