IAC: Challenges of Reaching Countries in Need by Tim Horn
August 16, 2006 (AIDSmeds)—According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more
than one million people in sub-Saharan Africa are currently receiving
HIV treatment. This, WHO HIV/AIDS Director Kevin De Cock, MD, reported
this morning at the XVI International AIDS Conference (IAC) in Toronto,
is a tenfold increase in treatment access in the region since December
Dr. De Cock explained that in low- and
middle-income countries, approximately 1.6 million HIV-positive people
were receiving HIV treatment by the end of June 2006. This, he
explained, is a 24% increase over the 1.3 million people who had access
to the drugs in December 2005, and four times the 400,000 people
receiving treatment in these countries in December 2003.
Dr. De Cock reported significant increases in treatment access in
several regions of the world, he also emphasized that there is
considerable work ahead to reach the goal of providing universal access
to HIV prevention programs, treatment, care and support by 2010.
De Cock laid out WHO's vision for continuing to expand HIV treatment
access. This included calling for new action to overcome barriers that,
if unaddressed, will slow the rate of expansion in access to HIV
treatment in the future.
According to WHO, there are
38.6 million persons living with HIV globally. Approximately 6.8
million people living in low- and middle-income countries require
antiretroviral therapy now. With 1.6 million HIV-positive people in
these countries currently receiving treatment, this means that HIV
therapy is only in the hands of 24% of people who need it.
of HIV treatment varies by region, from 5% in North Africa and the
Middle East, 13% in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, to 75% in Latin
America and the Caribbean.
Sixty-three percent of
HIV-positive on antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle-income
countries today are African. Dr. De Cock noted that while sub-Saharan
Africa has the greatest number of people on treatment among low- and
middle-income countries, it also has the greatest need – the region
accounts for 70% of the global unmet treatment need.
forward, Dr De Cock outlined five strategic directions, each of which
represents a critical area where the health sector must lead if
countries are to make progress towards achieving universal access, and
on which WHO will focus its technical assistance. These include
expanding HIV testing and counseling; maximizing prevention
opportunities in health care settings; increasing access to treatment
and care; strengthening health systems; and investing in strategic
While stressing that prevention, treatment,
and care are inextricably linked, De Cock called for an increased
emphasis on prevention efforts where HIV transmission is most intense.
He also emphasized the need to be guided by science – and not politics
– when determining the effectiveness of prevention intervention.
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