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WHO Calls For Greater Emphasis On Combating AIDS

The Asia-Pacific nations have been called upon by the World Health Organization (WHO) to review the progress made by them with regard to combating AIDS.// This is required to wage a more effective campaign against HIV/AIDS.

Shigeru Omi, Director of the WHO's Western Pacific Region office in Manila, said the theme for this year's World AIDS Day Thursday, "Stop AIDS, Keep the promise" was a call for accountability.

'What was done or not done, the failure to respond can also provide lessons,' he said in a statement, adding that a strong will and sufficient resources were required to combat AIDS.

Omi lamented that despite measures designed to prevent the virus from spreading, five million people worldwide were 'needlessly infected' in 2004, adding to the 40 million already living with the HIV virus.

'We know what works and what doesn't. So why has the necessary action to prevent the virus from spreading not been taken?' he asked. 'Why is the epidemic still growing and not reversing?'

He stressed the need for countries to evaluate their efforts to meet various HIV/AIDS-related targets under the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the UN initiative.

'These promises need to be translated into effective action,' he said. 'Political momentum has to be scaled up to meet national targets.' Omi noted that despite the MDG target of stopping the spread of AIDS by 2015, the epidemic continues to grow in many countries.

'With 10 more years to go, the target can be met but only if bold responses focused on vulnerable groups are taken,' he said. The WHO data also reveals that fewer than one in five infected people have access to basic HIV prevention programmes worldwide, despite dramatic developments in political commitment and funding.

Current interventions were also not sufficient to prevent the spread of HIV through illegal drugs injection, a major form of transmission in the Asia-Pacific region.

Whil e progress has been made in increasing access to antiretroviral therapy (ART), the efforts still fall short of the UN 3 by 5 Initiative target of providing treatment to three million people living with HIV in the developing countries by the end of 2005.

By June 2005, only about 1 million people globally were receiving ART in developing countries. In Asia, the number of people receiving treatment increased by 50% in the first half of the year to 150,000, covering roughly one in seven of those who need it.

(DPA)
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