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Drug, doctor shortages slow world AIDS effort-WHO
  MAPUTO (Reuters) - Shortages of both key drugs and the doctors to administer them remain serious problems with the global response to the AIDS epidemic, a senior World Health Organisation (WHO) official said on Wednesday.
Jack Chow, WHO assistant director general for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, said overall manufacturing capacity for antiretroviral (ARV) drugs was improving as more generic versions come on line around the world.
But he said severe shortages of health care personnel in developing countries, particularly in Africa, the epicentre of the AIDS epidemic, could hamper the development of effective treatment programmes.
"My collective sense is that momentum toward provision of ARVs is building," Chow said at a meeting of the World Economic Forum's Africa summit in the Mozambican capital. "But we recognise that bottlenecks exist at the country level. Personnel capacity, that is the one that we think about," he said.
More than half of the as many as 46 million people infected with AIDS worldwide live in Africa and the continent sees another 8,000 infected each day.
South Africa alone has more than five million HIV-positive people and only this year launched a programme to provide ARV treatment in the public sector.
The South African programme, described as the world's largest single AIDS intervention, got off to a slow start however, and officials said last month that drug shortages prevented them from signing up more patients.
South Africa's only domestic producer of ARVs, Aspen Pharmacare, said on Wednesday it was ramping up production as quickly as possible with the commission of a $30 million new plant in Port Elizabeth this month that will more than double annual output to some eight billion tablets.
"That more than accommodates sub-Saharan Africa's needs, even if we got all the business, which we won't," said Stavros Nicolaou, Aspen's senior executive for strategic development.
Other sources of drugs include India and Brazil, both of which have been expanding generic production capacity ahead of an expected sharp rise in world demand.
Chow said he was confident that, over time, enough drugs would become available to supply the WHO's ambitious "3 by 5" plan, which envisions putting a total of three million people in the developing world on ARV treatment by 2005.

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