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International News

Slow but Promising Start for ARVs on the African Continent

December 7, 2005

The World Health Organization's "3 by 5" initiative to ensure antiretroviral therapy (ARVs) for 3 million HIV patients in developing countries by the end of 2005 was slow to start, ultimately reaching about 1 million people, experts told the 14th International Conference on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa in Abuja, Nigeria.

In Africa, the continent most-affected by HIV/AIDS, the gap is even wider, with just half a million or "at best one person out of 10" in need of ARVs actually receiving them by mid-2005, according to UNAIDS.

However, experts said, the initiative begun in 2003 is a promising development for treating the world's poorest HIV/AIDS patients in the future. "We've said for a long time that we're not going to meet 3 by 5," said Jim Yong Kim, WHO's head of HIV/AIDS. "But on the other hand we're extremely excited about what happened after 3 by 5," he said, adding that "we have learned a basic lesson that businesses have known for a long time, the importance of setting a concrete target in a timeframe."

"I think [3 by 5] gave the momentum," said Doctors Without Borders' South Africa Head of Mission Eric Goemaere. "We needed a quantitative objective. It was the best and only way to get people to work on these issues." "I have never seen a sophisticated program like the ARV program kick-start so rapidly," he said. "I don't think there is any precedent in history." Even so, Goemaere noted, the tiny number of patients receiving ARVs "remains a scandal from a moral point of view."

"It's normal it should get off to a slow start, a lot of obstacles have to be overcome," said Donald de Korte, an executive for the U.S.-based drug firm Merck. "You see the same phenomenon across the board in all countries: ARV distribution follows an exponential curve," he said. "I think it's reasonable to suppose that the next 500,000 will be reached by the end of 2006."

Back to other news for December 7, 2005

Adapted from:
Agence France Presse
12.07.05; Jerome Cartillier

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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