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Over 4M People Living In Low- And Middle-Income Countries Have Access To ART, U.N. Report Says

More than 4 million people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries had access to life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART) by the end of 2008, according to a report released Wednesday by the WHO, UNICEF and UNAIDS, the Associated Press reports.

“The numbers, based on incomplete data and modeling, are only a guess … Of the U.N.’s 192 member countries, 158 provided government-approved data, most of which were not independently verified,” the news service writes.

Still, “Even though some of the data are not fully clear and there are some unanswered questions, this is a dramatic improvement,” said Daniel Halperin, an AIDS expert at Harvard University. “It shows that all this money that has gone to treatment has made some difference” (Cheng, 9/30).

In addition to “prais[ing] an ‘unprecedented expansion’ of drug treatment in low- and middle-income countries,” with the “greatest gains seen in sub-Saharan Africa,” the report highlighted increased counseling and testing services, particularly those targeting pregnant women, Reuters reports.

Despite gains, “Teguest Guerma, an AIDS director at the WHO … said an internationally agreed goal of achieving universal access to treatment by 2010 was unlikely to be hit and required more concentrated effort. ‘We’re moving toward universal access, but we’re not there yet,’ she said in a telephone interview. ‘We need to sustain the effort and commitment we have now to move forward'” (Kelland, 9/30).

“This report shows tremendous progress in the global HIV/AIDS response,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a WHO press release. “But we need to do more. At least 5 million people living with HIV still do not have access to life-prolonging treatment and care. Prevention services fail to reach many in need. Governments and international partners must accelerate their efforts to achieve universal access to treatment” (9/30).

DPA/EarthTimes: “The cost of first-line drugs has continued to drop, according to the U.N. agencies, but second-level medications and treatments remained restrictively expensive” (9/30).

A Reuters factbox features highlights of key findings from the U.N. report (9/30).

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