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30.06.2004 Health

World Health Report for 2004 launched

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Accra, June 30, GNA - Dr. Kweku Afriyie, Minister of Health on Wednesday said government, individuals and communities should make the necessary sacrifices and investments to support people living with HIV/AIDS access the anti-retroviral drugs to prolong their lives. He said the areas of care, treatment, prevention and support, which has been the most neglected element in most developing countries should now be given the needed attention to prolong the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS.

Dr Afriyie, who launched the report in Accra, said, "we must also take a firm stand and deploy technological advances made against the disease."

The report, titled "Changing History" seeks to give a new direction to the prevention, treatment, care and support to HIV/AIDS through the World Health Organisation (WHO) initiative, which aims at providing three million people living in developing countries with anti-retroviral drugs by the end of 2005.

The initiative adapts lessons from HIV/AIDS programmes in developed countries and builds on the achievements of developing countries. The report dealt on topics ranging from the current epidemiological state of the disease around the world, treatment initiative, community participation, finding new strength for health systems and sharing research and knowledge.

According to the Health Minister, the neglect of treatment had resulted in a situation where over 6 million people needed the Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) urgently "Only 400,000 have received the drugs as at 2003", it added.

He said there was enough evidence that the drug therapy could change the circumstances at both individual and community level through the initiative of WHO.

Dr Afriyie noted that government's scale-up plan for ART would ensure that all regional hospitals provide anti-retroviral drugs by the end of 2005 and half of all district hospitals by the end of 2007. "We hope to reach a situation of universal access to the drug by the year 2009", he added.

Professor Ofosu Armah, President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, who gave the overview of the book, said over 40 million people were living with the disease world-wide and 20 million people have died of it. He said, WHO was using ART as an entry point to build primary health care in communities for a total number of 260,000 people and also for the larger community to have access to the drugs.

He called on stakeholders to join resources and funds to ensure that people living with HIV/AIDS had access to the drugs at an affordable price and if possible government should make it free for all. Dr Melville George, WHO Country Representative, said though substantial amount of funds have gone into the fight of HIV/AIDS, the results were below what was required to scale up key interventions. "The stakes are higher, the rapid expansion of ART is large, complex and difficult undertaking. This is a crucial moment in the history of HIV/AIDS, the international community has the chance to change the history for generations to come and open the door to better health for all", he added.

Professor Fred T. Sai, Presidential Advisor on HIV/AIDS and Population Issues who presided, said whilst the technologies exist, "we should not let the people die before their time at least their lives could be prolonged".

He cmmended WHO for the 3 by 5 initiative and urged them to cover every person living with the disease. 30 June 04