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PEPFAR on Track, 400,000 on anti-retrovirals

Today, Thursday, is World AIDS Day, the 18th time the world has marked the occasion in the course of the pandemic that has killed about 25 million people. Another 40 million are living with HIV, the AIDS virus. Most are in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, 64 percent of the world’s new HIV infections in 2005 occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.

The joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, says the world faces a choice. It can either continue to accept that global efforts will fail to keep pace with infections and deaths – or -- it can recognize the exceptional global threat posed by AIDS and embrace an equally exceptional response.

Marches, rallies and various observances are being held in many countries to commemorate World AIDS Day.

The major effort the Bush Administration is using to fight the AIDS pandemic is PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. It’s a five-year, 15-billion dollar program that’s run by the Office of the US Global AIDS Coordinator. The deputy coordinator, Dr. Mark Dybul, spoke with English to Africa’s Joe De Capua about the status of efforts to battle the pandemic.

“Well, the state of PEPFAR is very healthy, aggressive, moving forward. The emergency plan is on track for what the president promised in 2003. In the State of the Union address the president promised $15 billion over five years…In 2004, with the full support of the US Congress, $2.4 billion went for the effort; 2005, $2.8 billion. In 2006, the president’s requested $3.2 billion. So, this escalation of resources as capacity is being built and the United States is now providing at least half of all international government resources for HIV/AIDS. So, America is keeping its promise,” he says.

The Global AIDS Coordinator’s Office says the US is providing anti-retroviral treatment for 400,000 individuals in 15 countries; 395,000 of those are in Africa.

Dr. Dybul says, “To put that in context, when the president announced the emergency plan, only 50,000 people in all of sub-Saharan Africa were receiving anti-retroviral therapy. And there’ll be a lot more people alive next World AIDS Day because America is keeping its commitment on AIDS.”