Huge lack of access to AIDS drugs

Some 99 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa have no access to antiretroviral drug therapy, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said in its annual report for 2002.

The report, which was released at the current meeting of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa being held in Johannesburg, South Africa, said HIV/AIDS interventions for prevention, life-saving treatment and support among Africans was still too low.

"The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to spread relentlessly in the African region. Only 50,000 of the 4.5 million people who need antiretroviral therapy have access to treatment, despite recent reductions in cost," the report stated.

Outlining its "3 by 5" plan to provide antiretrovirals to some 3 million people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries by the end of 2005, WHO vowed to support the continent in strengthening its public health efforts.