Press Conference on AIDS treatment global health emergency
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our failure to deliver antiretroviral treatment for AIDS to the millions of people who need it is a global health emergency.
Today, we have medicines to treat AIDS patients for a dollar a day or less but these medicines are not getting to the people who need them.
To deliver antiretroviral treatment to millions of people we must change the way we think and change the way we act. Business as usual will not work. Business as usual means watching thousands of people die every single day.
To tackle the AIDS treatment emergency, we must take emergency measures. All of us here today - WHO, UNAIDS, the Global Fund, as well as our other partners, will take the lead in delivering these urgent actions. We will use the rapid response skills we have learnt in responding to complex emergencies in Afghanistan, Liberia, Iraq and in quickly controlling the SARS outbreak.
WHO will organize and lead emergency response teams to those countries with the highest burden of HIV/AIDS based on direct appeals from governments. These teams, made up of experts in AIDS treatment from international and non-governmental organizations, will work to speed up the delivery of antiretroviral drugs, diagnostic tests and other treatment, to the people who need them.
Already, we are working to develop simplified technical guidance for the delivery and use of antiretroviral medicines, based on fixed-dose combinations, basic laboratory exams, and simpler regimens.
We are building a global AIDS Drugs and Diagnostics Facility that will help developing countries to get quality antiretroviral medicines.
And we are developing rapid training for the thousands of health workers who will be needed to deliver the treatment.
I have committed the World Health Organization to meeting an extremely ambitious target: providing antiretroviral medicines to three million people by the end of 2005, the "3 by 5" target.
At current rates, fewer than one million of these people will receive antiretroviral treatment by the end of the target year of 2005. To reach our target will require an extraordinary effort, an extraordinary effort that is already under way.
About six million people in developing countries have HIV infections that require antiretroviral treatment. But fewer than 300,000 are being treated. In sub-Saharan Africa, where most of the people in need of treatment live, only 50,000 people are receiving it.
Last month, in Angola I met Carolina Pinto, a brave young woman who is one of the very few people in the country to receive antiretroviral treatment. She is being treated at the only centre in Angola that offers antiretrovirals, but the centre's funding is uncertain and she told me she doesn't know if her treatment will continue. We have to make sure that Carolina and the millions of people like her get the medicines they need.
Of course, on its own, providing medicines is not enough. Investing in treatment for AIDS also means strengthening health systems. This will benefit all those who require health care, for AIDS, for TB and for any other health needs.
We are now working out exactly how much money will be needed, both to provide the medicines and strengthen the systems to deliver them. We will be working very hard to make sure this funding is found as rapidly as possible.
What is needed is quite simple: a change in spending priorities. In Europe, for example, every single cow receives a daily subsidy of two dollars. Half of that amount would buy the drugs needed to treat an AIDS patient.
We know that AIDS is not a new disease. The possibility of treating people with antiretroviral medicines is not new. What must be new is our approach and our determination to meet this emergency. We must use all the skills we have learnt in responding to previous emergencies and controlling SARS to deliver these life-saving drugs to the millions of people who need them now.
WHO, UNAIDS and the Global Fund will be there with our partners to respond to this emergency. We call on governments, other international organizations, non-governmental organizations and all involved in the response to AIDS to join with us, to act with urgency, with commitment, and with the necessary words, deeds and resources, to tackle this global, human emergency.