Big Progress, Daunting Challenges in HIV/AIDS Treatment and Prevention

The push to deliver antiretroviral drugs to all HIV-infected people who need them made another step forward last year, but still has a long ways to go. As of December 2008, 4 million people in low- and middle-income countries were receiving the drugs, up from 400,000 in 2003 and 3 million in 2007, according to a progress report issued by the World Health Organization today. But the document also notes that more than 5 million HIV-infected people still have no access to the life-saving medicine.

The situation regarding antiretrovirals for pregnant women to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus is also a good news/bad news story. Although 45% of pregnant, HIV-infected women received them—a jump of 10% from the previous year—more than half did not, meaning many babies became infected even though a proven strategy exists to prevent that from happening. Other prevention efforts to reach men who have sex with men and injecting drug users similarly are struggling.