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Annan calls on African leaders to ensure men play full role in fight against AIDS

Annan calls on African leaders to ensure men play full role in fight against AIDS

Kofi Annan and French President Jacques Chirac
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on African leaders, from the national level on down to the communities, to ensure that men assume their full responsibilities in the battle against the spread of HIV/AIDS.

"On the question of AIDS, as I made clear, the leaders have responsibility. Obviously, each society will have to approach it in its own way, taking into account its own culture and organizations," Mr. Annan said at a press conference held at the close of the three-day Africa-France summit in Paris. Joining the Secretary-General were Presidents Jacques Chirac of France, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Paul Biya of Cameroon.

Asked what could be done to make African men to practice safe sex in a continent where for the most part women have no power to force them to do so, the Secretary-General noted that there are African countries that have demonstrated that it can be done. "From Senegal to Uganda, and Botswana is taking very seriously the issue," he said. "All around the continent, there are good practices that one can learn."

Mr. Annan also stressed that AIDS is hitting Africa's women much harder than men. "When I plead with leaders that we should empower women, we should respect their rights, we should give them the opportunity to take charge of their own lives, help them in doing that, I would hope that this is something that you plug back in to national policies," he said.