WHO: 5.2 million people on AIDS drugs in 2009

WHO: 5.2 million people on AIDS drugs in 2009

Posted: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 8:02 pm
By: AP

VIENNA (AP) — The number of people taking crucial AIDS drugs climbed by a record 1.2 million last year to 5.2 million, the World Health Organization said Monday.
Between 2003 and 2010, the number of patients receiving lifesaving antiretroviral treatment increased twelve-fold, according to the Geneva-based body.
“We are very encouraged by this increase. It is indeed the biggest increase that we have seen in any single year,” said Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO’s HIV/AIDS department.
Hirnschall, in a recent interview with The Associated Press, said the jump was due to improved access to treatment around the globe. However, he noted that progress has been more significant in sub-Saharan Africa than elsewhere.
“That’s obviously where the greatest need in terms of numbers is, but that’s really where we have seen the most impressive scale-up in terms of treatment access,” Hirnschall said.
Not only have African leaders understood the seriousness of the situation and shown political commitment, there has also been international solidarity in terms of providing funding for projects in the region, he added.
But “it’s not over … there’s still a long way to go,” warned Hirnschall, who is currently in the Austrian capital for an international AIDS conference.
In Eastern Europe, meanwhile, there are proportionally fewer people on treatment than in other parts of the world because drug users often are not included or given sufficient access, he said.
Drug users are “criminalized, they are stigmatized, they are obviously a group that suffers inequities and human rights violations, and that’s obviously a serious concern for all of us,” he said. While in Africa AIDS is a mainly heterosexual epidemic, in Eastern Europe a lot of the infection occurs in drug users, he noted.
Complete statistics on the global situation will be released in a report in September.
Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, welcomed news of the upswing in people receiving treatment but warned that going forward it could be impeded by insufficient funding.
Published in The Messenger 7.21.10

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