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African Leaders Urge Urgent Action Against AIDS


ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (Reuters) - African leaders attending an international conference on HIV/AIDS called Sunday for urgent action to combat the devastating impact of the killer disease on their continent.

Kingsley Amoako, executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), appealed to African leaders to redefine their own response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

"The AIDS pandemic is undermining social and economic structures and reversing the fragile gains made since independence," he told the opening session of the five day conference, which has drawn 1,500 delegates from all over the world.

"In parts of Africa, AIDS is killing one in every three adults, making orphans out of every tenth child and decimating entire communities."

Since the emergence of the epidemic 14 years ago, some 12.1 million children have been orphaned in Africa, out of the global estimate of 13.2 million, he added.

"Within the next 10 years, it is projected that there will be 40 million AIDS orphans in Africa."

Amoako said African leaders had shown a lack of political will to take early action to counter the pandemic.

The conference, he said, must agree a consensus which can be forwarded to an African summit on HIV/AIDS scheduled to be held in Nigeria early next year.

Salim Ahmed Salim, Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) regretted that despite the long-standing recognition of HIV/AIDS as a menace to Africa, little serious action had been taken to arrest the pandemic.

"In most of our societies the message about HIV/AIDS has not yet reached the bulk of the people. There is little open discussion about it, and still in many of our communities the disease is met with stigma and discrimination which encourage concealment and silence," he said.

Thursday, African heads of state are due to assemble in Addis Ababa for a keynote address by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan .

They are due to outline their countries' plans to step up the battle and to exchange views on an Africa-wide strategy. The presidents of Ethiopia, Botswana, Uganda and Rwanda are among the leaders expected.


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Information in this article was accurate in December 3, 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.