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Last Updated: Monday, 28 November 2005, 04:52 GMT
Apology over missed Aids target
By Madeleine Morris
BBC News, Johannesburg

Aids orphans in Soweto, South Africa
Aids has had a particularly devastating effect in Africa
The head of the World Health Organisation's HIV/Aids programme has apologised for its failure to meet a global target for the treatment of HIV.

It had aimed to get three million people in poor countries on HIV drugs by the end of this year, but the WHO admits that target will be missed.

Three by Five, as it is known, was the much heralded programme to promote HIV treatment to the poorest of the poor.

Begun just two years ago, it was always an ambitious aim.

When the WHO announced in June that only one million of the three million people it had hoped to have on drugs were receiving them, it became apparent that the ambition would not be fulfilled.

In an interview with the BBC, the head of the programme Kim Jim-yong said sorry.

"All we can do is apologise," he said. "I think we have to just admit we've not done enough and we started way too late."

Exactly how many people are on treatment will not be known until early next year.

'Saving lives'

But Dr Kim says despite missing the target, the programme has not been a failure.

"Before Three by Five, there was not an emphasis on saving lives," he said.

"Many leaders in the world were saying we just have to forget about this generation of people who are infected, we're really thinking about the next generation.

"So something has happened that's extraordinary."

HIV drugs, or anti-retrovirals, greatly improve the quality of life and life expectancy for people infected with HIV, but the most optimistic estimates suggest only one in 10 Africans and one in seven Asians are currently getting the treatment they need.

According to UN figures out last week over 40 million people worldwide are now infected with the HIV virus.

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