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UN agency says attacking AIDS will improve health services in poor countries

UN agency says attacking AIDS will improve health services in poor countries

Training health service workers to tackle HIV/AIDS will also help improve general health care in developing countries, the United Nations public health chief said as he thanked Canada for donating C$100 million (US$82.82 million) to provide such instruction.

“I am pleased to announce that while countries are rapidly trying to expand access to AIDS medicines and prevention services, funding from Canada will also help them provide better, and more sustainable health services,” Dr. Lee Jong-wook, Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), said yesterday in Ottawa during his first official visit to Canada.

“One key aspect is to train and retain health workers. There simply are not enough in too many poor countries.”

Canada has 500,000 health workers for 31 million people, compared to 600,000 health workers serving 682 million people in all of sub-Saharan Africa. Using Canada’s ratio means that sub-Saharan Africa should have 10 million health workers. WHO said sub-Saharan Africa needed at least 2.5 million to provide its people with essential health services.

Doctors and nurses are being trained now to deliver anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy and another 85,000 health workers were to receive ARV training in the next 18 months, WHO said. Meanwhile, WHO was trying to persuade governments and international agencies to raise wages and benefits for the workers to stop their migration from poorer to richer countries.

In addition, the Canadian gift, pledged last May, would scale-up HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts, including trying to reach WHO’s “3x5” target of reaching 3 million people with treatment by 2005.

“We are determined to reach as many people as we can in the world’s poorest and most hard-hit countries with antiretroviral treatment and information on how to prevent HIV/AIDS,” said Canadian Minister of International Cooperation Aileen Carroll at a news conference with Dr. Lee.

“We are also determined to help expand equitable, quality and sustainable health services for people living with HIV/AIDS, their families and their communities.”