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Three million Aids patients to get drugs by 2005-UN

1st December 2003


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Two UN agencies fighting against HIV/Aids unveiled an ambitious programme today to provide anti-retroviral drugs to three million people in developing countries and those in transition within two years.

World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Jong-wook Lee called the prevention and treatment of the deadly disease perhaps "the toughest health assignment the world has ever faced".

"The lives of millions of people are at stake. This strategy demands massive and unconventional efforts to make sure they stay alive," he said on World Aids Day, introducing the so-called "3 by 5" plan that would give half of the people worldwide in dire need of treatment a better chance at survival.

The WHO and UNAids said their programme complemented initiatives by thousands of international foundations and non-governmental organisations, by pharmaceutical companies to lower the price of anti-retroviral drugs, and most importantly "the courageous contributions of nations increasing their people's access to Aids treatment".

The global Aids epidemic continues its deadly march forward, with UNAids figures released last week showing that at least 40-million people worldwide are infected with HIV or have Aids.

Three million people died in 2003 from Aids, akin to a fully-loaded Boeing 747 jumbo jet crashing about every 90 minutes.

Five million new cases of HIV/Aids were recorded just this year, the vast majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa, though AIDS is fast becoming a major problem in China, India and Russia.

"WHO estimates that six million people worldwide are in immediate need of Aids treatment. This strategy outlines the steps needed to deliver treatment to half of them within two years," the agencies said in a joint press release.

A comprehensive approach to HIV/Aids has to include prevention, treatment and care, they said.

The "3 by 5" programme, given this name because it would give three million people worldwide drug treatment by 2005, was estimated to cost about $5,5-billion.

"We firmly believe that we stand no chance of halting this epidemic unless we dramatically scale up access to HIV care.

Treatment and prevention are the two pillars of a truly effective comprehensive Aids strategy," said Peter Piot, UNAids executive director.

"We know what to do but what we urgently need now are the resources to do it," Lee said. "We must waste no time in building storage alliances immediately to implement this strategy. Three million people are counting on it". – Sapa-AFP.


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