Global communities and national governments are failing to scale up antiretroviral (ARV) treatment in poor countries, said a group of 800 AIDS activists from more than 125 countries.

In its latest report, ‘Missing the Target #3: Stagnation in AIDS Treatment Scale Up Puts Millions of Lives at Risk’, released ahead of World AIDS Day on 1 December, the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) said the the momentum created by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) campaign was rapidly fading from most government interventions.

The WHO’s ‘3 by 5’ initiative to have three million HIV-positive people in developing countries on ARVs by the end of 2005 deadline passed without being fully met and fell short by at least one million people.

Fatima Hassan, of the AIDS Law Project, a nongovernmental organisation providing legal assistance in South Africa, and an ITPC member, said the initiative was still a positive step towards realising universal access to anti-AIDS prevention and treatment.

“Donor communities and local governments could do well to emulate the target and deadline-driven urgency of the WHO plan when trying to scale up treatment, especially in South Africa, where hundreds of thousands of people who need ARVs are not getting them,” she told IRIN/PlusNews.

Close to 214,000 South Africans were receiving anti-AIDS medication at public health facilities by the end of October 2005, but an estimated 600,000 who desperately needed the drugs were still unable to access them.

The Health Department’s requirement for provincial treatment facilities to be inspected by national office officials before rolling out ARVs was causing needless delays in accrediting new treatment sites, Hassan said.

However, wide-scale treatment failure was an issue in all of the six countries analysed by ITPC – including Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa – with the number of people receiving ARVs dwarfed by the number in urgent need of the life-prolonging drugs.

The treatment shortfall was particularly glaring when it came to women and children in the focus countries, where programmes to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child were reaching just 9 percent of HIV-positive women in Africa, the report commented.

“Many local governments have failed to make treatment delivery a priority … with no clear global targets being set by most for the scale-up of anti-AIDS services, any interventions embarked upon over the last three years run the risk of dissipating,” warned Hassan.

The ITPC advised countries to take greater responsibility by setting their own national treatment goals.

Among other recommendations, the coalition called on health officials to “follow through with swift action to establish widely supported treatment targets; address severe human resources shortfalls; revise national paediatric guidelines; and greatly accelerate the pace of treatment scale-up”.


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