LOS ANGELES, June 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The release of a World Health Organization/UNAIDS/UNICEF report on Monday documents appreciable global progress in the effort to deliver lifesaving antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) to people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries; however, it also underscores the crucial need to maintain a focus on scaling up and providing lifesaving antiretroviral treatment in programs like PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) notes AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).
The report claimed that three million people were on treatment in 2007 (a goal that World Health Organization officials had initially hoped to reach in 2005 in its ambitious '3 x 5' treatment plan), but it also revealed a more ominous trend that AHF and other advocates believe calls for a renewed and stepped up commitment to delivering care and antiretroviral treatment-more than 9.7 million people with HIV/AIDS around the world are in critical need of antiretroviral treatment (those who would otherwise die within two years) than at the end of 2006; 2.6 million more in need today than one year ago.
"This World Health Organization report notes that almost ten million of the 33 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS today are in immediate need of treatment, and an additional two to three million people are expected to join their ranks in urgent need of treatment in each coming year," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the largest AIDS organization in the US and which currently provides medical care or services to more than 70,000 individuals in 22 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. "Without aggressive, immediate and widespread scale up of the delivery of ART, we believe this trend will quickly erase any treatment gains WHO and other global leaders have claimed over the past year. During the past several months, AHF has been urging Congress to preserve the requirement for a priority on treatment in PEPFAR."
The current PEPFAR legislation, which is up for re-authorization by Congress, requires that a minimum of 55% of the funds be spent on care and treatment, a provision that has AHF believes has been key to PEPFAR's success to date. However, despite a tripling of funds to $50 billion in the re- authorization bill, Congress has unfortunately removed a requirement that any money be spent on treatment.
Over the past two months, delegations of AIDS Healthcare Foundation doctors and AIDS treatment clients from Africa traveled to Washington to speak out firsthand about the importance of lifesaving antiretroviral AIDS treatment as part of an effort to ensure that AIDS care and treatment remain a priority in PEPFAR, the successful US global AIDS program. The African delegations met with Senators, Congress Members and staffers in more than 40 legislators' offices in May to tell their stories of treating those with HIV/AIDS in Uganda, South Africa and Rwanda or of living well with HIV/AIDS thanks to their own access to antiretroviral treatment. One African delegation took part in a press conference with Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) during which the legislators' announced their intention to place a 'hold' on the bill to reauthorize PEPFAR to ensure a treatment funding floor remains in the bill.
WHO's entire 2008 progress report on ARV treatment scale-up, which includes the most recent data on ARV treatment (as of the end of 2007), can be accessed here: http://www.who.int/hiv/mediacentre/2008progressreport/en/index.html
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the nation's largest non-profit HIV/AIDS organization. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 70,000 individuals in 22 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at www.aidshealth.org