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In Abuja, Annan expected to urge stronger action on AIDS at tomorrow's summit

In Abuja, Annan expected to urge stronger action on AIDS at tomorrow's summit

Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in the Nigerian capital of Abuja today to attend an African summit on infectious diseases where he is expected to deliver a major, action-oriented speech on Thursday, calling for mobilization of worldwide efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The Secretary-General landed at the Abuja airport this morning accompanied by President John Kufuor of Ghana, who will be also attending the forum, officially known as the African Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases.

Mr. Annan's programme in Abuja today included meetings with a number of UN officials attending the summit, among them Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and K.Y. Amoako, the Executive Director of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

In his address to the summit, the Secretary-General is expected to discuss priority aspects of the epidemic, such as prevention, care and treatment, as well as the essential factors needed for a large-scale response, including adequate funding.

Acting on his personal commitment to galvanize the battle against the deadly disease, the Secretary-General has taken a number of concrete steps to bring together partners engaged in the effort. In December 1999, the UN hosted the first meeting of what became known as the Strategic Partnership against AIDS in Africa. The event was unprecedented in that it brought together for the first time African and donor governments, non-governmental organizations, foundations and the private sector, including pharmaceutical companies. Last December, Mr. Annan attended the ECA-organized African Development Forum in Addis Ababa, where the Partnership was formally launched.

The Strategic Partnership spawned a dialogue with pharmaceutical companies, which led to a number of positive developments. Most recently, after a meeting in Amsterdam with executives from six major pharmaceutical companies, the Secretary-General announced that they had agreed to accelerate the reduction in AIDS drug prices in the least developed countries, especially in Africa, while cutting prices in other parts of the developing world.

The Secretary-General's speech in Abuja will be followed by a second address on the AIDS epidemic to be delivered on 30 April to the Council of Foundations in Philadelphia, United States. Taken together, the two speeches are part of the momentum building towards this June's General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS.