WHO on AIDS: "Time to lead, empower and deliver"

News release

MANILA, 2 December 2008—With only two years left before the goal set by the World AIDS Campaign, the rallying call under the five-year slogan, "Stop AIDS. Keep the promise", must now focus on delivery on promises, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

WHO said the goal of universal access to comprehensive prevention programmes, treatment, care and support envisioned by the end of 2010 is still a long way off. A progress report published in June 2008 indicated that while HIV prevention, care and treatment programmes have expanded, more remains to be done to ensure access. In 2007, only 28% of those in low- to middle-income countries who needed ARV treatment in the Western Pacific Region received it.

World AIDS Day, observed on 1 December over the last 20 years, has chosen "leadership" as the theme for 2007 and 2008. Leadership empowers everyone—individuals, organizations, governments—to lead in response to AIDS. The campaign highlights the political leadership needed to fulfil commitments made in response to the disease, particularly the promise of universal access to treatment, prevention, care and support.

"Governments must deliver on the promises they have made," said Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Region. "Communities must encourage leadership on their members. Individuals must feel empowered to access treatment, to know their rights and to take action against stigma and discrimination, and to know and use methods of prevention against acquiring and transmitting HIV."

In the Western Pacific Region, about 1.3 million people, including 21 000 children, were estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in 2007, with around 150 000 new HIV infections and 63 000 AIDS-related deaths.

As of 2007, nearly all countries in the Region had established comprehensive national policies on HIV, but despite this, most have not been fully implemented and many aspects still lack funding.

In addition, one third of countries still lack legal protection for people living with HIV, and stigma and discrimination continue to be a major barrier to universal access. Legal barriers to HIV services still exist for groups such as sex workers, people who use drugs, and men who have sex with men.

In sum, much more needs to be done, said WHO. This includes:

  • focus delivery systems to ensure they reach those in greatest need with sustainable prevention and treatment services;
  • pressing forward with care and antiretroviral treatment programmes;
  • managing the co-epidemic of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS to curb high mortality rates;
  • investing on strategic information to enhance understanding of the epidemic and support training and allocation of resources.

With more resources being made available, particularly through the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, WHO said one major challenge is to ensure that these resources are used strategically and effectively, possibly with far reaching benefits for the strengthening of health systems.

For more information, please contact Dr Massimo Ghidinelli, WHO Regional Adviser in HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections, tel.: +632 528 9714; e-mail: ghidinellim@wpro.who.int