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UN Misses AIDS Treatment Target

The World Health Organization and joint UNAIDS program say they failed to meet their target of providing anti-retroviral treatment to three million AIDS sufferers in poor countries by the end of 2005.

The World Health Organization's so-called “3 by 5” AIDS strategy has ended short of its mark. Nevertheless, UNAIDS experts say they are pleased with the results they have managed to achieve.

WHO Department of Measurement and Health Information Systems Director Ties Boerma says 1.3 million people with HIV/AIDS are receiving the drugs they need to keep them alive. He notes two years ago, only 400,000 AIDS sufferers were receiving treatment.

"Sub-Saharan Africa has reported dramatic progress," Boerma says. "And, this is the region in the world where almost 75 percent of the people who need treatment are living. From 100,000 two years ago to 300,000 one year ago to now 800,000 people on treatment, which is about one in six of the people in need."

Since the “3 by 5” program began two years ago, the World Health Organization reports access to HIV treatment has expanded in every region of the world. And, it says 18 developing countries are providing treatment to at least half of those in need. It estimates 250,000 to 350,000 deaths from AIDS have been averted due to the treatment.

During the past two years, WHO figures show the price of first-line treatment dropped as much as 53 percent.

In 2001, President Bush made a commitment to halt the advance of the HIV/AIDS pandemic by implementing his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The program promised to provide $15 billion over five years, targeting the hardest hit countries in Africa and the Caribbean, including Botswana, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya and Haiti.

The World Health Organization says it has not done a good job in preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission. It says fewer than 10 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women received anti-retroviral drugs before or during childbirth and 1800 infants were born with HIV every day.

It says more than 570,000 children under the age of 15 die of AIDS every year. Most acquired the disease from their mothers.

Now that “3 by 5” is at an end, Director of Evaluation of UNAIDS, Paul DeLay says global efforts are under way to provide universal access to HIV treatment by 2010.

"Universal access towards prevention and universal access towards care and support, particularly for vulnerable populations and orphans," DeLay says. "Prevention is key. During the year that 1.3 million people have been placed on treatment in 2005, another five million became infected."

Dr. DeLay says prevention was overshadowed by the emphasis placed on getting treatment to AIDS sufferers. He says prevention remains the first-line of defense against the spread of the disease and must not be neglected.

The World Health Organization says it believes it is possible to get treatment to most of the people who need it by 2010. But, to do so, it says at least $22 billion a year will be needed by 2008 to fund national HIV prevention, treatment and care programs.