World health experts are confident they can provide AIDS drugs to three million people in poor nations by the end of 2005, despite being behind target over the first six months of the project, they said on Saturday.
World health experts are confident they can provide AIDS drugs to three million people in poor nations by the end of 2005, despite being behind target over the first six months of the project, they said on Saturday.About 440,000 people in the developing world are receiving antiretroviral drugs, 60,000 fewer than the World Health Organization (WHO) had hoped for when it launched its “3 by 5″ strategy last December.”We have to be frank and admit there is a very long way to go,” Dr Peter Piot, the executive director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, told a news conference on the eve of the 15th International AIDS Conference.Only 40,000 more people had received the life-saving drugs since the plan was unveiled and $62 million is still needed for assistance in the 56 countries which have signed up for it, according to the latest WHO report.But Piot said the “3 by 5″ goal was achievable because funding for treatment programs was starting to come in, there was the political will and a strategy to provide drugs in poor countries.Training of healthcare and community workers had started and the infrastructure to deliver the treatments in poor countries was mostly there even if it had not been utilized, he said.”I am convinced that when we meet in Toronto two years from now we will have moved from the thousands to the millions when it comes to HIV treatment,” he said of the next global AIDS meeting.ANSWER TO A DREAMFor Rolake Odetoyinbo Nwagwu, an HIV positive woman and activist with the Treatment Action Movement in Nigeria, the “3 by 5″ plan has to work because she and six million more in the developing world who need treatment will die without it.”‘3 by 5’ must work. It is not something we can debate. It is something we must all work together toward achieving. We don’t have an option because it is about saving our lives,” she said. The “3 by 5″ strategy will enable her to take two pills a day instead of 19, as she did a few years ago when she was enrolled in a drugs trial, and the drugs will be much cheaper.”It is about affordable, quality treatment. It is about helping people get hold of their lives. It is about teaching people about the treatment and helping them adhere to it,” she said.Dr Jim Kim, director of the WHO’s HIV department, said increasing access to treatment in the developing world was the best opportunity to prevent HIV in places like Africa.”I, too, am extremely optimistic about the future of this initiative.”But the report highlights barriers that must be overcome to meet the three million target by the end of next year. An additional 100,000 health and community workers will be needed to administer the treatments in more locations.Millions of people must be tested to determine their HIV status and more money is still needed to finance the “3 by 5″ initiative estimated to cost $5.5 billion.The cost of antiretroviral drugs has dropped 90 percent to about $150 per person a year, but not all countries have adopted the low-cost regimens. Treatment guidelines need to be updated and women, children and the very poor do not have equal access.Procurement and drug regulation is weak in some countries and there is still concern about the quality of generic drugs. Discrimination and stigma about HIV/AIDS is also preventing people from seeking testing or treatment.”We are moving in the right direction, but too slowly,” said Kim. (Source: Reuters, July 2004)