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U.N.'s Annan Demands War Against AIDS in Africa


ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan - called on Thursday for an all-out war against the AIDS epidemic in Africa, telling the continent's leaders it must be their top priority.

Annan told a conference in the Ethiopian capital that the world had been too slow to respond to the epidemic that has already killed about 15 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and infected another 25 million.

Apart from the enormous cost in lives, Annan said AIDS was now a major obstacle to tackling poverty across the developing world and could pose a threat to its political stability.

But he insisted there was still time to halt and even reverse its continued spread.

"In the face of such multiple burdens, our response must be comprehensive -- a war on many fronts. We need a complete social mobilization against AIDS," Annan told the conference of African government officials, U.N. agencies and private charities.

He said the world was ready to throw billions of dollars into fighting the spread of AIDS, but African governments must make sure the money is spent where it is most needed and can do most good.


"The question is not whether more people will die. More people will die. The question is how many generations will suffer as ours is doing today: and how many generations will be saddled with a spreading virus, catastrophic economic and social losses, and heart-breaking, pervasive loss of life."

Almost one in 10 adults in sub-Saharan Africa has the disease, with the numbers rising to more than one-third of adults in Botswana, the world's worst affected nation.

Some 3.8 million African children and adults were infected this year alone, although that was slightly below the number of new cases last year -- the first decline since AIDS surfaced in the late 1970s.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, whose government is widely seen as one of the most successful in fighting AIDS, said here on Thursday that too many Africans sit back and wait for the outside world to solve their problems.

He called on the region's leaders to educate their people about the disease and also pool resources to invest in developing and manufacturing drugs to treat AIDS sufferers.

"The onus is on us to play the major role in fighting HIV/AIDS, and we shall be most effective if we fight it together," Museveni said. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for three-quarters of the people killed by AIDS worldwide and over 70 percent of those now suffering from the disease, but Annan said it is also spreading quickly in India, Eastern Europe and Russia.

"Unless we act in these regions, they could end up facing a crisis comparable to what we already see in many parts of Africa," he said.


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Information in this article was accurate in December 7, 2000. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.