Progress In Treating HIV; Still A Long Way To Go More than 4 million people in low- and middle-income countries are currently receiving life-preserving drug treatments for HIV, a 39 percent increase in one year. Still, in many countries in Africa, the number of people infected continues to rise, and funding for treatment is in danger.
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Progress In Treating HIV; Still A Long Way To Go

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Progress In Treating HIV; Still A Long Way To Go

Progress In Treating HIV; Still A Long Way To Go

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

NPR's Brenda Wilson has this story.

BRENDA WILSON: In 2000, just a couple hundred-thousand people in developing countries were getting antiretrovirals, the drugs that keep HIV from progressing to a deadly condition, and now more than four million are in treatment. Teguest Guerma, the interim HIV/AIDS director for the World Health Organization, says that's a 39 percent increase in one year.

TEGUEST GUERMA: The greatest gains were seen in sub-Saharan Africa, where two-thirds of the HIV infections occur. An estimated 2.9 million people were receiving treatment at the end of 2008.

WILSON: There's one area in which more progress has been made than in others. Forty five percent of pregnant women are enrolled in programs that help prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Dr. Chewe Luo is the senior advisor for HIV/AIDS to UNICEF.

CHEWE LUO: What is even more exciting is that you find that in Africa, the percentage of women from east and southern Africa is actually much higher, it's over 50 percent. And that's where much of the burden of HIV is. These are countries that have very limited capacity to deliver on some of these programs, but we continue to see progress.

WILSON: Despite the progress, 5 million people are still in need of treatment at a time when programs are threatened by the global recession. Take South Africa, the country with the largest treatment program, it also has the largest burden of HIV/AIDS. Now 600,000 are getting treatment, though 1.5 million actually needs the drugs. Dr. Robin Wood of the Desmond Tutu HIV Center in Cape Town works with people who have both HIV and tuberculosis. He is worried that in a bad economy, Western countries may renege on promises for universal access to AIDS drugs.

ROBIN WOOD: Initially, there was a lot of reticence. It was thought that we wouldn't be able to run programs in developing world, that patient population wouldn't be able to take therapy. And we've shown that they can. We've shown that we can run very large programs. But the key problem is: Can we keep the focus and keep the funding and keep the political will to move forward?

WILSON: Brenda Wilson, NPR News.

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