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Tuesday, May 26, 1998 Published at 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK

Aids treatment gap widens

AIDS may be treatable in the West, but is still fatal in the developing world

The United Nations is calling for an urgent injection of cash to prevent the rapid spread of HIV in the developing world.

The call comes as the gap widens between those doomed to die from the disease and those who can control it through expensive drugs.

Peter Piot, executive director of the UNAIDS programme, which links six UN agencies, says the disease is out of control and increased funding is urgently needed to get it under control.

Speaking after a meeting of the UNAIDS governing body this week, he said: "With current funding levels, the world simply cannot bring this global epidemic under control."

He added that funding to fight the disease was "inadequate" in many countries and was very unequally distributed between countries.

Life or death

Some countries could afford expensive new drug treatments while others could not. In the West, the new treatments have led to a big drop in the number of Aids deaths and given many people with Aids hope that the disease might become a treatable one.

[ image: AIDS drugs can prolong life]
AIDS drugs can prolong life
Mr Piot said that the success of the new treatments showed that the "worsening epidemic" was not inevitable.

"Aids is unique in the rate at which the epidemic is expanding, its selective elimination of adults during their most productive years and its devastating impact on social and economic gains," he said.

The UNAIDS programme estimates that there are 30 million people with HIV in the world, 90 per cent of whom live in the developing world.

Subsidised drugs

At the end of last year, the UN announced plans to pilot an HIV Drug Access Initiative with three drug companies - Glaxo Wellcome, Roche and Virco. The aim is to offer subsidised drugs to developing countries.

Other initiatives with drug companies are also underway.

The World Bank has called on developing countries to put more efforts into preventing the spread of Aids because of the expense of drug therapies.

The issue is due to be discussed at this year's international symposium on HIV prevention in Geneva on June 27 and 28.

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