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Number of HIV-Positive Africans on AIDS Drugs Doubled in Second Half of 2003, Accelerating Access Initiative Says

March 19, 2004

The number of HIV/AIDS patients in Africa who are receiving antiretroviral drugs provided by companies participating in the Accelerating Access Initiative doubled over the last six months of 2003, according to an AAI release. The initiative, which was established in May 2000 to improve access to HIV/AIDS treatment and care in developing countries, is a partnership of five U.N. organizations -- UNAIDS, World Health Organization, UNICEF, United Nations Population Fund and the World Bank -- and six pharmaceutical companies -- Abbott, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Roche and Merck. According to new data, the number of HIV-positive Africans receiving treatment through AAI increased from approximately 75,000 in June 2003 to more than 150,000 in December 2003. The estimated number of people on treatment is based on actual quarterly drug supply data from the six pharmaceutical companies, which they provided for independent analysis to a third-party company with experience in HIV/AIDS care, according to the release. The data are a conservative estimate of the actual number of people on treatment because they do not take into account several factors, including drug regimen adherence, the number of children on treatment, the use of other medications and drug wastage, according to the release.

"This doubling in just six months of the number of HIV patients treated in Africa is encouraging progress," BMS Executive Vice President John McGoldrick, who is the current chair of the AAI industry partners, said, adding, "There is still a very long way to go to ensure that treatment reaches as many people as possible, but efforts are gaining momentum to improve access in Africa." UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said that nongovernmental organizations, private companies and the private sector "must all work to accelerate this positive trend dramatically." He added, "There are still too many people who lack access to HIV prevention, care, treatment and support initiatives -- everyone with something to contribute should redouble their efforts to fight this global epidemic." WHO Assistant Director-General Jack Chow said, "The AAI experience shows that with political will, commitment and partnership, it is possible to generate and sustain a large jump in access to HIV care and treatment in resource-constrained settings. ... We are confident that the global community will rise to the challenge by building on, and learning from, the work of the AAI and related initiatives" (AAI release, 3/18).

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