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Great Progress in AIDS Treatment, But Challenges Remain says WHO/UNAIDS report.

The World Health Organization and UNAIDS say global access to HIV/AIDS therapy has tripled in the past two years, but they warn significant challenges remain. A new report says while the increase in treatment was substantial, it was less than initially hoped.

Dr. Charlie Gilks is the WHO’s director of the treatment and prevention scale-up team. From Geneva, he spoke to English to Africa’s Joe De Capua about the availability of treatment for HIV/AIDS.

“I think that the world has made really remarkable progress on scaling up access to treatment. Partly in line with the 3x5 Initiative, but partly also through specific interventions like President Bush’s US Government Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has also contributed in 15 countries to this spectacular progress.”

Nevertheless, the 3X5 initiative fell short of its goal. Dr. Gilks responds, “We always saw 3x5, getting three million people on treatment for AIDS by the end of 2005, as a target. And that we regarded this as relatively aspirational. It was used to drive opinion forward, to drive the demand for treatment in countries, to get countries to commit to this. And also to get the donor governments obviously to commit additional resources. So, although we’re reporting that in fact the numbers achieved are only about 1.3 million, and therefore in those terms we have not reached the three million on target, nevertheless, we’ve made spectacular progress.”

That progress, he says, can be seen in Africa. “We’ve seen an eight-fold increase in the numbers of people in Africa, for instance, on treatment over the two-year period from 100,000 to 810,000 at the end of 2005.”

But the report says much more needs to be done to improve treatment for mother-to-child transmission of HIV. It says about 2,000 babies are born each day with HIV because their HIV positive mothers are unable to get the treatment they need.