WHO admits target on AIDS drugs may be unrealistic

In its Annual World Health Report 2004, the WHO said that more donor funds than ever before, at least $20.5bn (£11.5bn; 17.3bn), are available for AIDS relief in the world's poorest countries, but a huge concerted effort will be needed to get antiretroviral drugs to millions of people who need them before it is too late.

In its report, WHO stated that AIDS was the leading single cause of death among adults aged 15 to 59 around the world and that in 2003, three million people died of AIDS related diseases and five million became infected with HIV. WHO said funds were sufficient to cover the $5.5bn needed to achieve its stated goal of getting antiretroviral drugs to three million people with HIV in poor countries by the end of 2005 (the "3 by 5" target) but admitted it still had a long way to go. Many more people, some six million (over 90% of them in 34 mainly sub-Saharan countries), need antiretroviral treatment. Only 400 000 of them were receiving it at the end of 2003.

By the end of 2004, WHO will have achieved only 25% of the "3 by 5" target. Since antiretroviral treatment was introduced in Europe and North America in the 1990s, death rates from AIDS related diseases dropped by 80%, the report said. In contrast, AIDS death rates elsewhere and particularly in southern Africa have shot up.
F. Fleck, BMJ vol.328:1151, May 15, 2004 http://bmj.bmjjournals.com , http://www.ersnet.org

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