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UN Pressures Pharmaceutical Giants To Lower Prices For AIDS Drugs

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Nairobi (dpa) - The United Nations pressured pharmaceutical giants on Monday to lower prices on AIDS drugs and streamline the treatment process.

This part of an ambitious UN strategy, called 3 by 5," to hand out anti-retroviral drugs to three million people worldwide by 2005.

This is an emergency and the whole industry has to participate. Lowering the prices of these drugs is an absolute requirement for this to work," said Jim Yong Kim, advisor to the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), which is spearheading the $5.5 billion (US dollars) effort.

The key elements of the strategy include training tens of thousands of health workers to distribute and monitor the drug treatments.

Doctors Without Borders criticized pharmaceutical giants for ignoring simplified treatments that combine different medicines into a single pill.

The single-pill therapy, which some generic drug makers provide, improves the chances that patients adhere to their drug regimen.

Of the 40 million people infected with HIV, about 6 million require emergency treatment, according to UNAIDS. So far, about 480,000 of them are getting treated with anti-retroviral drugs.

The launch comes after biting comments by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that the world was losing the war on AIDS. He told the BBC that most developed nations had the means but lacked the political will to stamp out the virus.

Copyright 2003 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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