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US AIDS Treatment Program on Track

U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Randall Tobias says President Bush's $15 billion emergency plan for AIDS relief is on track in providing anti-retroviral AIDS treatment to victims of the disease in 15 of the most afflicted countries in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.

President Bush's $15 billion emergency plan aims to provide anti-AIDS drugs for two million victims in five years. One goal along the way was to support treatment for 200,000 people in 15 countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean by the end of this month.

U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Randall Tobias says that target was reached in March, three months early. He says about 235,000 men, women and children, most of them in Africa, now are receiving life-saving treatment.

"So, I think these results indicate the emergency plan is on track, scaling up to meet the ambitious goal of supporting treatment to two million people in five years,” said Mr. Tobias. “And I am particularly encouraged that 57 percent of those receiving treatment are women and girls. We are working to ensure that women and girls have full access to prevention, treatment and care which in many nations has historically been a problem."

The United Nations estimates 40 million people worldwide have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. About 25.5 million of these people live in sub-Saharan Africa. The United Nations says nearly 57 percent of those infected are women and girls.

While Mr. Tobias is pleased with the results so far, he agrees that a great deal more needs to be done in fighting the AIDS pandemic. He says more work has to be done in the area of prevention.

He notes people cannot access care and treatment until they know their HIV status. In order to reach the goal of treating two million HIV-AIDS patients, he says 40 million to 100 million people must be tested for the disease.

The U.S. ambassador says the problem is so huge that vast amounts of money are needed to tackle it. But, he adds money alone will not solve the problem.

"For example, in Mozambique, there are about 18 million people in the country,” he added. “There are about 650 doctors in the entire country. We have to as a world community, address the infrastructure problems and particularly the problem of shortages of health care personnel that are a critical part of the ability to build up treatment programs. It does not do any good to have a warehouse full of drugs if you do not have the laboratories and the laboratory technicians and the health care workers and others who can actually deliver the health care."

Mr. Tobias says the United States works very closely with local communities. He says the successful implementation of programs depends on taking into account national strategies for fighting HIV-AIDS.