HIV treatment figures up by 42% - UNAIDS
Some 3 million people now have access to antiretroviral therapy according to a report issued today by WHO, UNAIDS and UNICEF. Towards Universal Access: Scaling Up Priority HIV and AIDS Interventions in the Health Sector was launched in Geneva by Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. The report notes that one million people started on treatment last year alone which represents an increase of around 42% from the previous year.
"Three million people on treatment is an important milestone and an incredible achievement," said As Sy Elhadj, Director of Partnerships and External Relations at UNAIDS. "It shows that scale-up is happening and that momentum now needs to be sustained."
The report findings also show that 2007 saw improved access to drugs to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV, expanded testing and counselling, and greater commitment to male circumcision in some of the more heavily affected regions of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The rapid scale-up of treatment has been attributed to a number of factors, including increased availability of drugs, in large part because of price reductions; improved delivery systems; and increased demand as the number of people who are tested and diagnosed with HIV rises.
However the report also warns that despite the rapid scale-up there are an estimated 6.7 million people in need of treatment who are still unable to access the life-saving drugs.
"It is important to note that despite these successes there were 2.5 million new HIV infections last year," said Peter Ghys, Chief, Epidemiology and Analysis Division, UNAIDS. "If new infections continue at this rate it will be impossible to sustain the treatment scale-up successes we are seeing today."
Other challenges outlined in the report highlight the obstacles to achieving universal access and the Millennium Development Goals including: weak health systems; a shortage in health workers; a lack of sustainable long term financing and weak information systems.
The report underlines the urgent need for enhanced political commitment, better coordination and additional research to address some of these challenges if the goals that have been set out are to be achieved.