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