One million people get AIDS drugs via Global Fund

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 5-year-old organization that leads international efforts against three leading diseases said on Tuesday more than a million HIV-infected people have received life-extending drugs thanks to its efforts.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, launched by the Group of 8 industrialized nations and financed largely by the U.S. and European governments, said it is exceeding its targets.

The organization said as of May 1 between 1 million and 1.1 million people had received AIDS drugs through its efforts, up from 544,000 a year ago.

It said the number of tuberculosis cases treated also doubled from a year ago and the number getting insecticide-treated bed nets to protect against the bite of the mosquito that spreads malaria more than doubled.

“So far we estimate that the programs funded by the Global Fund have saved the lives 1.8 million people -- that is the lives of 3,000 people a day who would otherwise be dead from AIDS, TB and malaria,” said Dr. Michel Kazatchkine, the fund’s executive director.

The group devotes much of its efforts to Africa, the continent hardest hit by all three diseases.

More than 2.8 million people have been treated for TB and around 30 million families received bed nets under Global Fund fund efforts since it started its work in 2002, the group said.

Kazatchkine told reporters the fund has provided about $3.5 billion to fight the three diseases. About 30 percent of the money comes from the United States and 55 percent from EU countries, he said.

But he said much remains to be done, and that the fund is seeking $6 billion by 2010.

More than 25 million people have died of AIDS since the incurable disease, which devastates the body’s immune system, was first recognized about a quarter century ago. About 40 million are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS.

Malaria kills about a million people annually, mostly young children. Tuberculosis kills an estimated 1.6 million people a year.

The Global Fund detailed its efforts in 136 countries before a meeting of G8 heads of state in Germany in June.