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Annan urges US donors to support proposed global fund against AIDS

Annan urges US donors to support proposed global fund against AIDS

Building momentum on recent efforts to fight AIDS, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today took his rallying cry to Philadelphia, United States, where he urged a large gathering of the country's philanthropists to support a global fund aimed at tackling the epidemic.

In setting the stage for this appeal, Mr. Annan gave members of the Council on Foundations a sketch of the damage caused by the deadly virus, noting that last year alone, AIDS had killed 3 million people. "It is as though the population of two cities the size of Philadelphia had been wiped out in a single year," he said.

The Secretary-General, who just returned from an African summit meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, said he witnessed there a great deal of commitment to fight the AIDS menace, especially among young activists, some of whom had the virus. "Their strength filled me with hope even in the midst of tragedy, but they desperately need help, and we must see that they get it," he said.

Mr. Annan, who has proposed the creation of a $7-10 billion annual fund to fight AIDS and other infectious diseases, said even though that figure "sounded a lot when I said it in Nigeria last week," the sum was not unattainable. "It is actually less than you, the charitable foundations of a single country, are giving away each year."

"The world has the resources to defeat this epidemic, if it really wants to," he emphasized. Governments and taxpayers in industrialized countries would have to do much of the "heavy lifting," while the UN system would play a vital role in coordinating the struggle. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as the corporate sector would also be key to the effort, he added.

For their part, charitable organizations could stimulate others to emulate their generosity, he said, telling the assembled philanthropists, "If you make the fight against AIDS a top priority, I wager that governments and the general public will not be far behind."

Mr. Annan's intensified efforts to galvanize the fight against AIDS are geared towards producing concrete results at the June General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS, which he said should agree on a global strategy to defeat the scourge, and have firm commitments of money to finance the effort. "We cannot do it without your help," he told the Council members.

Comprised of over 1,800 foundations, the Council in 1999 had combined assets of some $318 billion and grants totalling an estimated $14 billion.