AIDS Efforts Improved, but Still Lacking; Report Aims to Extend Drug Treatment
Byline: John Zaracostas, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
GENEVA - Global efforts to extend drug treatment to millions of AIDS sufferers - nearly three-quarters of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa - picked up momentum in 2004, but major obstacles still need to be overcome, international health officials said last week.
"Many countries need to increase their efforts, money is short, and international organizations need to become much faster in assisting countries," concluded the latest "3 by 5" progress report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), published Jan. 26.
The "3 by 5" objective, announced in 2003, is to ensure that 3 million people living with AIDS receive treatment by the end of 2005. The goal is projected to cost as much as $3.8 billion to achieve.
The top leaders of WHO, Dr. Lee Jong-wook; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Dr. Richard Feachem; UNAIDS, Dr. Peter Piot; and Randall Tobias, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator, praised the advances attained in AIDS treatment last year at a news briefing last week in Davos, Switzerland.
"We salute countries that have shown us treatment is possible and can be scaled up quickly, even in the poorest setting," Dr. Lee said.
Said Mr. Tobias: "The heart and soul of President Bush's emergency plan for AIDS relief is to work shoulder to shoulder with host governments and our other partners in those nations in support of the national strategy of each country."
By the end of 2004, about 700,000 AIDS patients in poor countries were receiving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, up 75 percent from a year earlier and from 440,000 last July.
Though a gain, the 700,000 figure is just 12 percent of the estimated 5.8 million adults in poor countries who need ARV therapy. Of the 5.1 million who still lack ARV treatment, said the "3 by 5" report, 72 percent live in sub-Saharan Africa and 22 percent in Asia.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the WHO and UNAIDS in their latest "3 by 5" progress report estimate that the number of people receiving ARV treatment "has doubled over six months from 150,000 to 310,000" - about 8 percent of adults who need such therapy.
The report highlights that progress varies among countries. Botswana, Namibia and Uganda showed the largest increases in ARV treatment among African countries.
In Botswana, the number of facilities offering ARV therapy nearly doubled from 12 in 2003 to 23 sites at the end of 2004, covering all but a few districts in the country.
By March 2004, Botswana also had trained 2,212 health workers, the report said, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, counselors and other health workers. As a result, of the estimated 75,000 people ages 15 to 49 needing therapy, half were receiving treatment at the end of 2004. …