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'Third of Aids victims get drugs'

Only a third of the world's Aids victims have access to life-saving drugs, a report has revealed.

However just over half of HIV-infected pregnant women in poor countries received medicines to protect their unborn children last year, the World Health Organisation reported.

Only 15% of infected pregnant women had access to the therapy five years ago, an important jump in the quest to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015.

Overall, the "Towards Universal Access" report shows steady increases in the number of people taking lifesaving anti-retroviral treatment last year, to a record 5.2 million in poor and middle-income countries.

But most people living with HIV do not know they have it, the report concludes. It warns that the economic crisis could imperil even these treatment gains if investments in the global fight from poor and rich countries alike falter.

"It's an important moment. We need to sustain the momentum," WHO's Aids director, Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, said.

The report comes ahead of a meeting next week about the budget of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an international group that also has been an important source of financing.

Among findings of the report, from WHO and the United Nations, fifteen countries - including particularly hard-hit South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland - provided most of their pregnant women with medicines and services to prevent mother-to-child transmission last year.

Fourteen countries, including Brazil, Namibia and Ukraine, provided HIV treatment to more than 80% of their HIV-positive children in need.

Eight countries provided HIV treatment to more than 80% of adults in need. They are: Botswana, Cambodia, Croatia, Cuba, Guyana, Oman, Romania and Rwanda. Another 21 countries are getting close to that treatment target.

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