South African Health Minister Criticizes WHO 3 by 5 Target, Says Good Nutrition as Important in HIV/AIDS Treatment as Antiretrovirals
May 6, 2005
The South African government will not be "pressured" into meeting the World Health Organization's 3 by 5 Initiative targets for antiretroviral treatment, South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said on Thursday at a news conference on the progress of implementing health programs in the country, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Nullis, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 5/5). WHO has set a target to treat three million people with antiretroviral drugs by the end of 2005. According to the December 2004 "3 by 5 Progress Report," 700,000 people in developing countries were on antiretroviral drugs at the end of 2004. However, WHO HIV/AIDS Programme Director Jim Yong Kim in February at the 12th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston said the overall target will be difficult to reach, adding that South Africa, India and Nigeria must improve their efforts to provide access to antiretrovirals if the program is to succeed. About 90% of the HIV-positive people in South Africa are without antiretroviral treatment, according to Kim (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/23). In addition, an editorial in this week's issue of the Lancet says, "Without South Africa on board, with its 837,000 people affected by HIV/AIDS and its leadership position within Africa, 3 by 5 is but a pipe dream" (Lancet, 5/7). Tshabalala-Msimang on Thursday released figures showing that about 42,000 people are receiving antiretrovirals through the public health sector, a figure that is lower than the government's original target of 53,000 by the end of March. "I don't want to be pushed or pressurized by a target of three million people on antiretrovirals by 2005," Tshabalala-Msimang said, adding, "WHO set that target themselves. They didn't consult us. I don't see why South Africa today must be the scapegoat for not reaching the target." The South African treatment advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign estimates that 500,000 HIV-positive South Africans need treatment.
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