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UN To Boost Health Systems Response To HIV/AIDS

New UN scheme seeks to boost response of national health systems to HIV/AIDS

5 August 2008 - The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today launched a package of priority interventions designed to help low- and middle-income countries move towards universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support.

The package, unveiled at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, includes everything from how to expand condom programming to the latest in treatment recommendations, guidelines and standards.

"This document responds to a long-standing country need," says Kevin De Cock, Director of WHO's HIV/AIDS Department. "In one place it captures WHO's best guidance on what the global HIV/AIDS health sector response needs to deliver."

The document, which will be available on a CD-ROM, in hard copy and on the web, is intended to help countries with limited resources meet the commitment made two years ago at the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AIDS to provide universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010.

Readers will find descriptions of priority health-sector HIV/AIDS interventions that are needed to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care, as well as a guide to selecting and prioritizing these interventions.

The document will also direct readers to key WHO resources and references containing the best available information on the health sector response to HIV/AIDS.

Also today in Mexico City, WHO and the World Bank announced that they are joining forces, along with several other partners, to gather evidence and provide technical guidance relating to global health initiatives.

There are now more than 80 such initiatives, ranging from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR.

WHO notes that global health initiatives have helped to bring new resources, partners, technical know-how and commitment to tackling various health issues. At the same time, some say that disease-specific initiatives are eroding already weak health systems, while others assert that weak health systems are holding back progress in disease-specific initiatives.

The WHO-World Bank effort seeks to examine the issues in the debate and provide governments with sound technical guidance to enhance health systems without diminishing the benefits of disease-specific initiatives.

"It is not about choosing between health systems strengthening on the one hand and disease-specific programmes on the other," said Carissa Etienne, WHO Assistant Director-General, Health Systems and Services, told reporters at the AIDS Conference.

"It is about working together to generate added value. The time has come to move from observing the intentional and unintentional impacts of health investments, to actively managing better outcomes that can be sustained," she said.

The International AIDS Conference is the largest event of its kind in the world. It is held every two years and is taking place in Latin America for the first time this year.


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