Jong-Wook Lee Assumes Office of WHO Director General; Says Organization Will Boost Commitment to HIV/AIDS Fight
Dr. Jong-Wook Lee today in Geneva assumed the position of World Health Organization director general, saying that he will boost the organization's commitment to combating HIV/AIDS by providing antiretroviral drugs to three million HIV-positive people in developing countries by 2005, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 7/21). Lee, a South Korean physician who has worked at WHO for 19 years, succeeds Gro Harlem Brundtland, who yesterday ended her five-year term as head of WHO. She said she stepped into "a role of unprecedented influence and importance in global health matters," the Washington Post reports. During her term, Brundtland, a physician who was Norway's prime minister for 10 years, urged both rich and poor nations to focus on health, arguing that improving a nation's health may promote economic growth and development, according to the Post. Brundtland said that she has no immediate plans to work, but she will serve on the boards of the Turner Foundation and a not-for-profit organization working to develop microbicides that can be used by women to prevent HIV infection (Brown, Washington Post, 7/20).
New Resources for Scaling Up Programs
Lee said that he has charged a "newly strengthened" HIV/AIDS department with developing a worldwide plan to fight the disease by World AIDS Day -- Dec. 1, 2003. Lee also said that he will organize WHO's HIV/AIDS department into a cluster with the organization's malaria and tuberculosis groups; Dr. Jack Chow, who is resigning as deputy assistant secretary of state for health and science at the State Department, will serve as head of the HIV, TB and malaria cluster (WHO release, 7/21). Lee said that he will "begin deploying additional resources to priority country offices for building up capacity in HIV/AIDS control and health systems." He added, "These resources should be available by early 2004 to support the rapid scaling-up of HIV/AIDS technical cooperation and other top priorities." Lee said, "We must scale up an integrated global HIV/AIDS strategy linking prevention, care and treatment, prioritizing poor and underserved areas. ... The international community must act now." Lee concluded, "Today we begin a new chapter in WHO's history. We will continue the work already underway. And we will make changes where these are needed to meet the test -- results in countries" (Speech text, 7/21).
Video and audio versions of Lee's speech are available online.