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director-general dies

director-general dies

Lee Jong-wook, a prominent AIDS advocate, dies after blood-clot surgery.

World Health Organization director-general Lee Jong-wook, who was a vocal advocate for HIV prevention and treatment programs in developing nations, died Monday after undergoing emergency surgery for a blood clot in his brain. Lee, a native of South Korea, was a 23-year veteran of WHO and had been named to a five-year term as director-general in July 2003. He said at the time of his appointment that he wanted his tenure to be judged on the successes of the organization in implementing HIV treatment programs worldwide.

Lee was a guiding force behind the agency's "3 by 5" program, which aimed to get 3 million HIV-positive people in developing countries onto antiretroviral therapy by the end of 2005. Although that target wasn't reached, WHO says it made enormous strides in improving the health care infrastructures in poor nations, a key step in laying the groundwork for widespread HIV treatment initiatives.

Anders Nordstrom of Sweden will serve as acting head of WHO until a search is completed for a new director.

The U.S.-based Treatment Action Group praised Lee's accomplishments in fighting the HIV pandemic. "Under his watch, and with his whole support, WHO--for the first time in the pandemic's relentless and devastating 25-year eruption and global spread--took a leading role in guiding the response to the pandemic," says TAG executive director Mark Harrington in a press statement. "TAG expresses its solidarity with all those who are mourning the loss of this transformative leader in the world's struggle against AIDS." (The Advocate)

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