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Commentary

WHO’s mission impossible
Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, Business Day, 7-5-05

Tshabala-Msimang, South Africa’s health minister – quoting an article on the subject I wrote back in January – defends her country’s AIDS program against criticism from the WHO. As she says, the “3 by 5” program is unrealistic and the WHO did not consult the affected countries before setting its goals.

If [South Africa] was that critical to the success of the WHO initiative, one would have expected that there would have been discussions between WHO and government to ensure that the initiative was realistic in its goals. Unfortunately, there was no consultation before the launch of the initiative in 2003. …
“Many people have questioned whether ‘3 by 5’ was a viable project in the first instance. Philip Stevens, of the International Policy Network, in London, raised many issues about this initiative in an article on these pages: ‘The failure of ‘3 by 5’ highlights the misprioritization of action by the WHO. Leading public health experts are virtually unanimous in concluding that prevention is of paramount importance in the fight against AIDS…. But instead of promoting prevention, the WHO promoted a wholly unrealistic treatment model. Depressingly, the failure of the initiative was entirely predictable.’ …
To increase distribution of antiretrovirals, WHO compiled a list of prequalified drugs, mainly cheap generic drugs, and promoted them to relief organisations and governments. Some of these drugs were subsequently withdrawn last year because of safety concerns.


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