World at 'critical moment' in fight against HIV/AIDS - UN health agency

11 May 2004
Dr. Lee Jong-wook

With more money, more political will and more attention being paid to HIV/AIDS than ever before, the world has reached a crucial moment in the history of the pandemic and now has an unprecedented opportunity to alter its course, according to a new report released today by the United Nations lead health agency.

With more money, more political will and more attention being paid to HIV/AIDS than ever before, the world has reached a crucial moment in the history of the pandemic and now has an unprecedented opportunity to alter its course, according to a new report released today by the United Nations lead health agency.

By using HIV treatment programmes to bolster existing ones on prevention and improve health systems, the international community has a unique opportunity to change the course of history, says The World Health Report 2004 - Changing History, launched today in Geneva by the World Health Organization (WHO).

"Future generations will judge our era in large part by our response to the AIDS pandemic," said WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook. "By tackling it decisively we will also be building health systems that can meet the health needs of today and tomorrow. This is an historic opportunity we cannot afford to miss."

AIDS has killed more than 20 million people and is now the leading cause of death and lost years of productive life for adults aged 15 to 59 years worldwide. Today, an estimated 34 million to 46 million people are living with HIV/AIDS.

Even as the AIDS death toll and HIV prevalence rates continue to rise, to meet this "critical moment" in the history of the killer disease, WHO, along with the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and other partners are implementing a comprehensive strategy which links prevention, treatment, care and support for people living with the virus care, long-term support, and initiatives to provide antiretroviral therapy.

Until now, treatment has been the most neglected element in most developing countries. Yet among all possible HIV-related interventions, the report says it is treatment that can most effectively boost prevention efforts and in turn drive the strengthening of health systems and enable poor countries to protect people from a wide range of health threats.

Vital resources have now been pledged, including more than $20 billion from donor countries and through multilateral funding agencies, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the United States President's Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS Relief and the World Bank. These funds must now be used swiftly and in a coordinated way to prolong the lives of millions of children, women and men who will otherwise soon die, the report says.

 

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