WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook Drove Agency’s Efforts To Fight HIV/AIDSWorld Health Organization Director-General Lee Jong-wook -- who died in Geneva on Monday after undergoing emergency surgery for a blood clot in his brain -- was the "driving force" behind WHO's efforts to increase access to HIV/AIDS treatment in developing countries, the Los Angeles Times reports (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 5/23). Lee, a native of South Korea, was 61. Lee became ill on Saturday ahead of the annual World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva this week and was rushed to Cantonal Hospital after complaining of a severe headache, according to an official present at the time. Surgeons discovered that he had a blood clot in his brain and removed it. A 23-year veteran of WHO, Lee was appointed head of the agency in July 2003 for a five-year term. He had said that global efforts to control the HIV/AIDS pandemic would define his tenure as director-general of the agency (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/22). Lee "championed" the agency's 3 by 5 program, which aimed to have three million HIV-positive people in the developing world receiving antiretroviral drugs by 2005, the New York Times reports. During his tenure, Lee urged governments and drug companies to increase the availability of antiretroviral drugs in developing countries, with a goal of universal access by 2010 (Altman, New York Times, 5/23). President Bush in a statement described Lee as "work[ing] tirelessly to improve the health of millions of people, from combating tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS to his aggressive efforts to eradicate polio." Shortly before his death, Lee said, "[T]here can be no 'comfort level' in the fight against HIV[/AIDS]." He added, "[T]he commitment to universal access [to antiretroviral drugs] by the end of 2010 ... means that no one should die because they can't get drugs" (Los Angeles Times, 5/23).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Monday reported on Lee's death and his work in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The segment includes comments from Nils Daulaire, president and CEO of the Global Health Council; Kevin De Cock, director of WHO's HIV/AIDS Department; and Jim Kim, professor of medicine at Harvard University (Wilson, "All Things Considered," NPR, 5/22). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
Previous stories about Lee Jong-wook are available online in the Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report archives. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.