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In China, Annan continues pressing for full mobilization against AIDS

In China, Annan continues pressing for full mobilization against AIDS

Kofi Annan with Vice-Premier Qian Qichen
Concluding his official visit to China today, the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, pressed government officials with his case for the full mobilization of Chinese society to fight the country’s alarming growth in HIV infections, a UN spokesperson said in New York.

In his meeting in Beijing with Vice-President Hu Jintao, the Secretary-General discussed the UN development goals, saying that international cooperation in areas ranging from terrorism to economic development was more important than ever after the 11 September 2001 terror attacks. “We can’t afford another failed state like Afghanistan,” Mr. Annan said, referring to the period when world inattention towards Afghanistan allowed it to become a bastion for organized terror.

The Secretary-General also pledged to work with China on human rights issues, and repeated his earlier message that all levels of society must be involved in the fight against AIDS. “We must remove the stigma” of the disease, he stressed.

In reply, Vice-President Hu said that AIDS is a public health menace for all mankind and that China is paying close attention to its prevention and control, with all society needing to be engaged in the fight, according to UN spokesperson Hua Jiang. The Secretary-General said he was heartened by that attitude.

Mr. Annan then met with the most active leaders in the fight against AIDS in China, including Health Minister Dr. Zhang Wenkang and Professor Zeng Yi, President of the China Foundation for AIDS Prevention and Control. “We need all hands on deck,” he told them.

In the late afternoon, the Secretary-General met with Vice Premier Qian Qichen, who also said that AIDS deserves the attention of all governments, adding that China takes the issue very seriously and has mobilized its medical sector to join in the search for a cure.

The Secretary-General then described the meeting he had just had on the epidemic and his efforts to prod the major drug firms to lower their prices for AIDS medications in poor countries, Ms. Jiang said.

The two officials also discussed Iraq and the Security Council’s efforts to agree on a formula for the return of weapons inspectors. Their substantive talks continued at a subsequent dinner in the Secretary-General’s honour hosted by the Vice Premier.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s wife, Nane, spent part of the day at a Beijing primary school, where she met with some 200 students as well as officials from China’s main children’s books publisher, Ms. Jiang said.

Students of the Jing Shan Primary School presented their main concerns to Mrs. Annan, including an end to war, the protection of the environment, and education for all girls and boys. They also appealed for more attention to the growing global problem of AIDS orphans. In return, she showed slides of the UN’s development work and praised the students for their deep compassion and commitment.