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Annan urges changed attitudes to AIDS


UNITED NATIONS, June 25 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the world community Monday to change its attitude toward AIDS and underscored that "never, since the nightmare began, has there been such a moment of common purpose" in the battle against it.

"We cannot deal with AIDS by making moral judgments, or refusing to face unpleasant facts, and still less by stigmatizing those who are infected," Annan said in his inaugural speech at the U.N. General Assembly's special session on HIV/AIDS.

Some 2,200 delegates from governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations have arrived in New York for the three-day meeting, which aims at "galvanizing leadership, intensifying international action and mobilizing resources to combat the pandemic."

Annan, who has led a drive to establish a Global AIDS and Health Fund with contributions from all sectors, urged delegates to "make sure it is used effectively" by making it operational at year's end.

The U.N. has estimated that some $9.2 billion will be needed annually to combat the disease. Several private donors, among them the U.S.-based Gates Foundation and the Swiss insurance company Winthertur, have already pledged large contributions to the Fund.

AIDS, which has killed almost 22 million people and left 13 million children orphaned worldwide, "can no longer do its deadly work in the dark," Annan said. "The world has started to wake up."

"When we urge others to change their behavior, so as to protect themselves against infection, we must be ready to change our own behavior in the public arena," Annan said.

In what seemed like an elliptical reference to some religious groups opposed to international policies about sex education and prevention measures, Annan said, "We can only do it by speaking clearly and openly, both about the ways that people become infected, and about what they can do to avoid infection."

"And let us remember that every person who is infected -- whatever the reason -- is a fellow human being, with human rights and human needs," he added.

Conservative Islamic countries, the Catholic Church and some other Christian groups have already expressed firm opposition to the distribution of condoms, the dissemination of information on safe sex and the use of contraceptive methods to prevent the spread of the disease.

Some 140 speakers, including heads of state, ministers of health and other officials, are scheduled to speak during the three-day session. Simultaneously, representatives of hundreds of non-governmental organizations and the private sector will participate in different panels on issues related to HIV/AIDS.

One of the highlights of the meeting will be a special panel on orphans and vulnerable children, organized by UNICEF, the U.N.'s Children's Fund. The keynote speaker will be actor and singer Harry Belafonte, who is a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. The panel, scheduled for Tuesday, will explore the impact of AIDS on children and the various means to respond to the emergency.

The General Assembly's special session is expected to produce a final declaration outlining recommendations for a global action against the disease, based on the contributions and suggestions presented by the delegations.


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Information in this article was accurate in June 25, 2001. 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.