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In Genoa, Annan says G-8 commitment is key to success in battling AIDS

In Genoa, Annan says G-8 commitment is key to success in battling AIDS

The commitment and resources of the "Group of Eight" industrialized countries are indispensable to winning the battle against AIDS, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today told the leaders of those nations at a summit meeting in Genoa, Italy.

"Your leadership and commitment today will serve to give new strength and inspiration to the thousands of health-care workers, teachers and community leaders fighting this disease in the poorest parts of the world, and the millions suffering from its effects," said Mr. Annan, who had met for about 15 minutes with several Heads of State attending the summit.

The Secretary-General pointed out that in the battle against the disease, "there is no us and them, no developed and developing countries, no rich and poor - only a common enemy that knows no frontiers and threatens all peoples." At the same time, he noted that while HIV/AIDS affects both rich and poor, the poor are much more vulnerable to infection, and much less able to cope with the disease once infected. "African and other developing countries will need substantial assistance to meet the needs of their peoples" in fighting the pandemic, he said.

In response to this imperative, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the establishment of a Global AIDS and Health Fund, Mr. Annan said, noting that so far, over $1 billion has been contributed by governments, foundations, businesses and private citizens. "This is a very good beginning, but much, much more is needed," he said. "I therefore call on Governments, civil society, foundations and individuals to contribute to the fight against AIDS in any way they can."

The Secretary-General said the G-8 meeting was the culmination of a year-long process of awareness, engagement and mobilization on the issue of HIV/AIDS. "For the first time, we are seeing the emergence of a response to this deadly disease that begins to match the scale of the epidemic itself."

"The magnitude and the urgency of the AIDS epidemic has created an extraordinary global response to one of these challenges, based on partnership, solidarity and enlightened leadership," he observed. "We must all remember that."

In a welcome sign of grass-roots support for the Fund, the UN announced today that a pensioner from Denmark had contributed 100 Danish Kroner (about $11.50), which he enclosed in a letter to the Secretary-General thanking him for his "warm and strong words against AIDS."