GENEVA, 2 June 2008 - The end of 2007 marks an important step in the history of the HIV epidemic. According to the WHO, UNAIDS and UNICEF report Towards universal access: Scaling up priority HIV/AIDS interventions in the health sector, nearly a million more people (950 000) were receiving treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART) in low- and middle-income countries by year’s end, bringing the total number of recipients to close to 3 million—a more than seven-fold increase over four years.
The WHO/UNAIDS ‘3 by 5’ initiative, which sought to have 3 million individuals on treatment by 2005, is widely credited with jump-starting the global effort to provide widespread ART access to people in need living in low- and middle-income countries.
In 2007, that target was achieved a scant two years after the 2005 deadline. Not only has the number of people receiving treatment increased dramatically, but the pace of scale-up has also accelerated.
The year 2007 also saw gains in access to interventions designed to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), as well as increased testing and counselling and greater country commitment to male circumcision. An increasing number of children are also benefiting from paediatric ART programmes. At the end of 2007, an estimated 200,000 children were receiving ART compared to 127,000 in 2006 and 75,000 in 2005.
Nevertheless, countries are still far from meeting universal access goals. An estimated 2.5 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2007, and overall, ART coverage still remains low—only 31% of people estimated to be in need of treatment in low- and middle-income countries were receiving it in 2007.
Moreover, weak health systems and, in particular, a critical shortage of health-care personnel and a lack of long-term sustained funding threaten efforts to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care. At the end of 2007, the gap between required and available funding was estimated to be US$ 8.1 billion. To meet universal access targets, funding will have to more than quadruple to US$ 35 billion in 2010 and to US$ 41 billion in 2015.
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