To coincide with World AIDS Day, the World Health Organisation and UN AIDS are launching a campaign to treat three million HIV sufferers with antiretroviral drugs by the year 2005. It is called the Three by Five Plan. This report from Imogen Foulkes:
The WHO says preventing and treating AIDS is the most urgent health challenge the world has ever faced. Eight thousand people die of AIDS every single day, although it is now a treatable disease. Six million people, mainly in the developing world, need antiretroviral drugs but don't have access to them. The Three by Five plan wants to ensure that poor countries get the best quality medicines at the best prices and it aims to improve care, treatment and diagnosis by training thousands of new medical and community workers.
The WHO has simplified drug monitoringregimes in order to make it easier for patients to follow the treatment successfully. To get three million people on to antiretroviral drugs by 2005 will cost five and a half billion dollars. Much of that money is already committed to the plan through the Global AIDS Fund, the World Bank and President Bush's AIDS initiative. The WHO says the Three by Five plan is a way to challenge the unacceptable inequality surrounding the treatment of AIDS. But six million people need the drugs and deciding which three million will benefit will be very difficult. Individual countries will have the final say, but a meeting to discuss this is due to be held at the WHO in the next few weeks.