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WHO backs health sector response to HIV pandemic

WHO backs health sector response to HIV pandemic

Fifty-seventh session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific
18-22 September 2006, Auckland. New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand, 21 September 2006—The World Health Organization Western Pacific Region, in collaboration with international partner agencies, is seeking to scale up HIV/AIDS prevention and control activities in line with the goal of universal access for HIV/AIDS treatment throughout Asia and the Pacific by 2010.

The move came in the wake of a commitment in July 2005 by the Group of 8—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States—to significantly reduce HIV infections. The leaders agreed to work with WHO, UNAIDS and other international bodies to develop and implement a package for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care, with the aim of achieving, to the extent possible, universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment by 2010. This goal was subsequently endorsed by all United Nations Member States at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2005.

The goal of universal access follows the joint launching by WHO and UNAIDS of the "3 by 5 Initiative"in 2003 to support the expansion of access to antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle- income countries to 3 million people living with HIV/AIDS by the end of 2005. The initiative has increased the lifespan of many people living with HIV/AIDS.

Two major consultations were organized in the past year to introduce the concept of universal access to WHO Member States. Gaps and constraints blocking the comprehensive and integrated scale up of prevention, treatment, care and support activities were also identified. They are:

- Health worker shortages and a lack of technical capacity, including inadequate public health care infrastructure;
- Widespread stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, including those engaging in high-risk behaviours, such as drug use and sex work;
- Limited availability of voluntary counselling and testing.

Each country needs to determine its priority strategies, targets, interventions and activities for scaling up universal access.

UNAIDS and WHO are committed to support countries in this process and will continue to develop policies and guidelines to support countries in expanding HIV/AIDS prevention and control activities.

The success of universal access will depend on a broad partnership effort, said WHO.

ENDS

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