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Adequate financing key to combatting AIDS in Africa, UN envoy says

Adequate financing key to combatting AIDS in Africa, UN envoy says

The fight against HIV/AIDS can be won if adequate financial resources are contributed to the effort, a United Nations envoy on the impact of the disease in Africa said today.

“There is simply no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the pandemic can be defeated,” Stephen Lewis, Kofi Annan’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, told reporters in New York. “If we could summon the financial resources, we would save literally millions of lives and prolong millions of others.”

“Of course the pandemic is a cataclysm for anyone who is infected and it’s beyond description for the people yet to be infected, but there is no question that there is so much going on at the community level, we know so many of the answers that if we could summon the financial resources, we could turn the pandemic around,” he stressed.

Just back from a 10-day trip to Kenya and Namibia, the envoy said he had witnessed significant progress against HIV/AIDS in both countries. In Kenya, plans were under way to request international support to provide anti-retroviral drugs, while Namibia had launched new efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Both countries had a “huge host of community initiatives which just never stop proliferating,” he said. These included income-generating ventures that sometimes had “a bizarre or grotesque component which captures the nature of the pandemic,” he observed, citing the example of a Namibian project which consisted of selling papier-maché coffins for infants. When he visited this project, Mr. Lewis said workers putting silver handles on the coffins reported that “they simply couldn’t meet the demand.”

The envoy said every area he visited faced a “desperate” shortage of food, while orphans suffered lack of education because of the requirement to pay tuition. Mr. Lewis also reported widespread demand for female condoms “but again the problem is cost.” He added that because of the power they gave women, female condoms were becoming “more and more demanded and less and less, relatively speaking, available.”

The Global Trust Fund for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria had inspired hope among community group leaders, who faced a severe lack of financial resources, Mr. Lewis said, referring to the fund created on Mr. Annan’s initiative. “It seems to me that this places upon the donor nations a very considerable obligation to meet the target that the Secretary-General has set of $7 to $10 billion a year,” he said.