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At Abuja African Summit, Annan calls for major mobilization to fight HIV/AIDS

At Abuja African Summit, Annan calls for major mobilization to fight HIV/AIDS

Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Addressing a forum of African leaders in Abuja, Nigeria, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for a major new global campaign -- and a massive mobilization of fresh funding - in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The Secretary-General told the African Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases, that a "war chest" of $7 to $10 billion was needed annually, and proposed the creation of a new global fund dedicated to the battle against the blight and other infectious diseases. Donors, he said, should make firm commitments by this June's General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS, where governments are expected to endorse a political declaration to fight the epidemic.

Calling the battle against AIDS his "personal priority," Mr. Annan outlined five key objectives for the global campaign: preventing the epidemic's further spread, reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission, providing care and treatment to all, delivering scientific breakthroughs, and protecting the vulnerable, especially orphans.

In particular, the Secretary-General urged large-scale awareness campaigns to give youth "the knowledge and power to protect themselves." He said all mothers must be able to find out whether they are HIV-positive, and those who are must have access to short-term anti-retroviral therapy, which has been shown to reduce transmission.

With pharmaceutical companies now ready to sell life-saving drugs to developing countries at greatly reduced prices, the Secretary-General said, "everyone who is infected should have access to medicine and medical care." In addition, he reminded leaders attending the summit of the need to give priority to the search for an HIV/AIDS vaccine and, when one is found, to make it available to all people, "not only to those who can afford" it.

In order to achieve those goals, Mr. Annan noted, strong leadership was needed. "Only you can mobilize your fellow citizens for this great battle," he told the Heads of State and Government attending the summit.

Underscoring the importance of funding for these priority initiatives, the Secretary-General said that money was needed "for education and awareness campaigns, for HIV tests, for condoms, for drugs, for scientific research, to provide care for orphans, and of course to improve our healthcare systems."

Mr. Annan pointed out that in a world of wealth, it would not be impossible to mobilize $7-10 billion, a figure representing little more than 1 per cent of global military expenditures.