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Hundreds Of Thousands Sign Up For Aids Drugs

Hundreds Of Thousands Sign Up For Aids Drugs Under New Programme, UN Says

The United Nations health agency and HIV/AIDS programme today reported progress in the past six months in creating national frameworks that increase the access of infected people to appropriate drugs.

Under the "3x5" programme, unveiled in December 2003 on World AIDS Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) would provide treatment to 3 million people in developing countries by the end of 2005.

The WHO acknowledged, however, that the 440,000 currently receiving treatment was "less than the 500,000 milestone" set when the '3x5' strategy had been published in December.

According to the agency, lack of financial support delayed the start of the programme, but pledges of donations from Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom has permitted recruitment of staff to work in developing countries.

"There is clear evidence that simplified AIDS treatment works in poor settings. Now, the commitment, significant financing and building blocks are in place and there are no more excuses. The time to learn by doing and scale up treatment is now," said Dr. Jim Yong Kim, Director of HIV/AIDS at WHO.

"We are moving in the right direction, but too slowly. We now have 18 months for governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other partners to rapidly increase the availability of prevention, treatment and care in developing countries," he added.

An additional 100,000 health and community workers will soon be needed globally, as millions of people seek to learn their HIV status and demand any needed treatment in many more locations. The total cost is estimated at $5.5 billion, WHO said.

Meanwhile, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) says Thailand saved millions of lives by implementing a well-funded, broad-based response to the epidemic in the 1990s.

According to a UNDP report launched ahead of the 15th International AIDS Conference next week in Bangkok, Thailand was th launch a serious, large-scale prevention campaign and it thus became the world's most successful country in combating HIV/AIDS.

After peaking at 143,000 in 1991, the annual number of new HIV infections fell to 19,000 in 2003, making Thailand one of a very few countries to have beaten back a serious HIV/AIDS threat, UNDP said.

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