Boston Globe Profiles WHO Plan To Provide Antiretroviral Drugs to Three Million by 2005
The Boston Globe on Friday profiled the World Health Organization's goal of providing antiretroviral drugs to three million people by 2005 (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 10/3). WHO Director-General Dr. Jong-Wook Lee on Sept. 22 during a U.N. General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS in New York City announced WHO's commitment to the "three by five" plan and declared the lack of access to antiretroviral drugs a global health emergency (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/25). WHO, which has been known for its "bloated bureaucracy," has "quietly but quickly" begun to lay plans for the initiative, which will increase tenfold the number of HIV-positive people in developing countries who receive treatment, and plans to have a blueprint for the initiative by Dec. 1, according to the Globe. Nine task teams -- including severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and polio specialists -- are examining different angles of the HIV/AIDS treatment access problem. WHO has been exploring several ideas to simplify treatment, including allowing health care workers or family friends, instead of doctors or nurses, to oversee patients' treatment on a regular basis; training thousands of people as caregivers through 10-day or one-month sessions; and writing up basic treatment protocols in order to give pharmaceutical companies clear guidelines for what drugs need to be produced and when the drugs need to be produced.
Asking for Help
In the 10 days since WHO offered to send technical teams to assist governments in setting up drug programs, at least 20 countries -- 14 in Africa, three in Latin America and the Caribbean and three in Asia, including China -- have asked for help, Charles Gilks, a WHO medical officer, said. WHO has said it will address funding for the initiative at a later date, as it did with the SARS epidemic, and funding requirements will depend on how many countries agree to the plan. Officials hope they will be able to draw funds from Bush's five-year, $15 billion global AIDS initiative, the Globe reports. Many AIDS advocates worry that some countries will not participate in the program, and officials are concerned about patient response, side effects and drug resistance. "You have to take chances, instead of debating endlessly. I don't know exactly the way to do it right now, but let's get started, let's figure it out, and let's do it," Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the WHO official overseeing the initiative, said (Boston Globe, 10/3).