U.N. misses AIDS treatment goals

March 28, 2006 at 6:22 PM
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GENEVA, Switzerland, March 28 (UPI) -- The United Nations acknowledges its global HIV/AIDS treatment initiative failed to meet targets, despite an 85 percent increase in worldwide expenditures on the disease.

A World Health Organization report released Tuesday in Geneva said 1.3 million people received antiretroviral treatment in 2005, up from 400,000 only two years before but still less than half of the "3 by 5" project's goal.

The U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS project sought to get 3 million people in treatment by 2005.

"The target was set really quite optimistically," said Professor Charlie Gilks, director of the treatment and prevention scale-up team at the World Health Organization, in a telephone interview from London. "If you had a certain level of a health system and the money was there and you had staff, what could you do? We really pushed the agenda."

Spending on AIDS treatment increased over those years, from $4.7 billion $8.3 billion.

Gilks said "3 by 5" showed public health targets motivate national governments and international donors and should next be applied to prevention.

"The agenda has changed. The treatment is out there, and it's being delivered," he said.

Nearly 20 countries, 13 of them in Latin America, met the ancillary goal of treating half of their infected populations. Gilks said the epidemic in the region is smaller than in Africa, and its health care facilities better developed.

He said one of the projects biggest successes was Malawi, which treats 35,000 people. "Here's the tenth poorest country in the world; most of its doctors are practicing in Europe or South Africa; and it's gone from virtually nothing to ... treatment centers in each of its districts," he said.

Asian nations also made strides, expanding treatment more than 75 percent last year.

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