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