amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

WHO Report Finds ARV Treatment on the Rise


July 2005—The developing world has made “dramatic progress” in expanding the availability of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, according to a recent report from the World Health Organization updating its “3 by 5” initiative. In Asia, the number of HIV-positive people receiving medications rose to 100,000, doubling the total over a six month period from June to December 2004. Thailand and Cambodia in particular were singled out by the WHO report for having significantly expanded treatment access.

Although striking gains have been made towards meeting WHO’s goals, which aim to treat three million people with antiretrovirals by the end of 2005, only around eight percent of the 1,200,000 Asian adults needing AIDS medications were able to receive them in 2004, according to WHO. Since Asia experienced a 50 percent increase in HIV infections last year, reported UNAIDS in December—the largest rise in the world—the challenge of successfully ramping up treatment is an ever more daunting one.

Other conclusions drawn from WHO’s “3 by 5” Progress Report include:

  • In Cambodia, significant progress has been made in increasing the number of sites delivering ARV treatment, and at the end of 2004 over 20 percent of adults needing treatment were receiving it.

  • In Thailand, the number of patients on medication rose to approximately 50,000, roughly 30 percent of those who need treatment, putting the nation in a position to achieve the “3 by 5” goal of providing treatment to 50 percent of its population in need by the end of this year. Since 2003, the government has increased its budget for ARV therapy from US$7.7 million to US$20.5 million.

  • India along with South Africa and Nigeria account for 41 percent of the world’s unmet need for ARV treatment. Overall, Asia represents 22 percent of the world’s unmet need.

  • Treatment success rates in developing countries are proving to be equal or better than they are in affluent nations. Adherence is as high as 90 percent for fixed-dose combinations and survival rates are exceeding 90 percent after one year of ARV treatment.

  • Generally, the number of women on therapy is rising as rapidly as it is for men, but children are still significantly underserved.

  • Worldwide, only about 12 percent of the 5.8 million adults who need ARV drugs in resource-limited nations are currently receiving them.

  • If WHO’s “3 by 5” goal is to be met by the end of this year, 2.3 million people will need to be added to the treatment rolls at an additional cost of at least US$2 billion.