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WHO and UNAIDS give update on "3 by 5" treatment program

One million people in low and middle-income countries are now receiving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, according to the latest statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). This represents an increase over the 400,000 on treatment when WHO launched the initiative in 2003 but falls significantly short of the goal to treat 1.6 million people by the end of June 2005.

Although WHO officials suggest that the ultimate target of treating 3 million people by the end of this year will not be met, the program is still seen as a success for expanding treatment in 152 low and middle-income countries. Stephen Lewis, the United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, said the 3 by 5 initiative has "unleashed an irreversible momentum for treatment" and that access to treatment has emphasized the importance of prevention.

The expansion of treatment access in sub-Saharan Africa, where there is also the greatest need, has been the most dramatic. A three-fold increase in the number of people receiving ARVs occurred just in the last year.

Of the 1 million people now on treatment, 350,000 are receiving ARVs funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria or the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Officials at WHO hope the expansion of access to ARVs will help stabilize the pandemic, which caused 3 million deaths last year alone.