The United Nations released its report on progress made during the past year on the so-called "three by five initiative" -  the global goal of putting three million people living with HIV/AIDS on anti-retroviral treatments by 2005.   Africa has a mixed performance on providing the drugs.

Officials in Nairobi emphasize that anti-retroviral treatments have given Africans living with HIV/AIDS much greater hope for better futures.

The chairwoman of Kenya's National AIDS Control Council, Miriam Were, describes how life has changed for many Kenyans and other Africans living with HIV/AIDS.

"We know from the communities and from the cities as well that there has been a lot of hope because of the possibility of treatment, and the more we work towards providing this treatment widely, the more hope there is. This is a very fundamental issue because hope, I believe, is also perhaps the most fundamental human right," she said.

The report says the number of people on anti-retroviral treatments in sub-Saharan Africa more than doubled from 150,000 to 310,000 in just six months.

Botswana has reached the U.N. goal of treating at least 50 percent of its people needing anti-retroviral treatments.

Uganda is expected to reach that target in the first half of this year, and Kenya and Zambia have made great progress, treating more than 10 percent of the population in need.

The associate director of the World Health Organization's AIDS office in Geneva, Dr. Teguest Guerma, describes some of the successes in Africa.

"More and more, countries are showing that treatment works. Survival rates of AIDS patients is increasing.  In Entebbe, Uganda, 90 percent [of] patient[s] in anti-retroviral therapy were alive after 15 months on treatment.  In Botswana, 91 percent are alive after the same period." said Dr. Guerma.

"To reach the three-by-five target, we need to treat the remaining 2.3 million people," explained Dr. Guerma. "Seventy two percent of this unmet need live in Africa. Countries need to translate political commitment into action, including financial commitment.  In Abuja [Nigeria] in 2001, African government[s] have committed to spend[ing] 15 percent of their national budget[s] for health, and very few have respected this commitment by today."

The head of the Kenyan HIV/AIDS support network NEPHAK, Inviolata M'Mbwavi, said there are long waiting lists in Kenya for ARV treatments, and many of the poor are unable to afford the $7 a month needed for treatments.

She said there is still stigma attached to having HIV/AIDS, and gave an example of a situation she knows in the eastern Kenyan town of Garissa.

"A case in point is a colleague from Garissa who had all physical signs indicating need for ARV treatment.  He had accepted his status, but due to [the] high level of stigma he could not seek the treatment which is available in his health facility," she said.
Ms. M'Mbwavi said, overall, the stigma of having HIV/AIDS and receiving anti-retroviral treatment for it is diminishing as the treatment becomes more readily available.