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World Bank Chief Calls for Increased Action Against HIV/AIDS

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has called for increased international action in fighting HIV / AIDS, and said the international community has fallen short of a goal to provide treatment to millions of people.

During World AIDS Day in 2003, the United Nations and the World Health Organization unveiled a plan to provide HIV / AIDS treatment to three million people by the end of 2005.

Speaking Thursday in Washington, Mr. Wolfowitz said that the goal has not been met and treatment remains out of reach for all, but a small percentage of those living with HIV.

"Today, one million people in low- and middle-income countries are receiving treatment," he noted. "It's more than doubled since the end of 2003, but it is still far short of the target and even further short of the need."

Mr. Wolfowitz said more than three million people have died of AIDS-related illnesses so far this year, and more than 40 million people are living with HIV globally, the highest number since the pandemic began more than two decades ago.

The World Bank president said sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the worst hit region, with 26 million infections. He said more needs to be done in fighting HIV/AIDS globally.

"Throughout the developing world, the combination of AIDS and extreme poverty compounds the tragedy," he added. "It's a reminder to all of us that this disease is not merely a health problem, but a global development challenge that cuts across all sectors and holds back entire countries."

Mr. Wolfowitz also called for cooperation among international development agencies, civil society organizations and national governments in addressing and fighting HIV/AIDS.

On Wednesday, the World Bank launched a new AIDS action plan that calls for increased funding for HIV/AIDS programs. It also aims to help countries effectively target and address how and where the virus is being spread.