UN/WHO making progress in treating HIV/AIDS, but will miss 2005 target

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Friday, July 1, 2005

The World Health Organisation has announced that the number of people receiving anti-retroviral treatments (ART) in developing countries is increasing significantly - more than doubling between December 2003 and June 2005. One million people are now getting the drugs they need, compared to just 400,000 eighteen months ago.

However, access to treatment is not growing as fast as demand, and the UN is unlikely to reach its target of treating three million people by the end of 2005 - just over half the people who need it. The longer-term target of universal treatment by 2010 is still likely to be met.

The figures show that the number of people receiving ART is increasing in every part of the globe, but not as quickly as people are contracting HIV. The numbers getting treatment in sub-Saharan Africa, the part of the world worst affected by HIV/AIDS has increased threefold on a year ago, and doubled in the last six months. The same rate of growth as also been seen in Asia, the second-worst affected area.

The WHO's report highlights that the best progress has been made when governments have worked together with the WHO, the UN and other parterners. The report goes on to make recommendations for simplifying the process to enable treatment levels to be increased even faster.

The UN's target was based on what was hypothetically possible if all possible steps to provide treatment were taken. The report shows the while financial, political and technical steps have been made, other areas are falling short.

Pressure groups said that countries were reacting too slowly to the pandemic and called on the G8 to provide more sustainable funding for universal treatment for Aids.

UK international development minister Gareth Thompson said: "We are committed to universal access to HIV treatments by 2010. We will spend £1.5bn in the next three years on Aids, including £150m on orphans."