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International Conference on AIDS in Africa Calls for More Funding - 2001-12-14

The 12th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Africa ended on Thursday, with advocates issuing a renewed urgent call for funding to fight the spread of disease on the continent. The five-day meeting in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, focused largely on what African nations can do to improve accessibility to low-cost retro-viral drugs. The conference in Ouagadougou ended with a statement whose content was all too familiar to the hundreds of delegates attending: There must be more funding by the international community to fight the pandemic that, according to the United Nations, killed 2.3 million people in Africa last year alone.

U.N. special envoy Stephen Lewis expressed his frustration in closing comments, saying it is time for both the international community and the African nations that are affected by the epidemic to act. Mr. Lewis added that a series of summits similar to the one in Ouagadougou have ended with the same conclusion. "Within one year, we heard it at Durban, we heard it at Addis, in Abuja, at New York, and now, in Ouagadougou," he said. "And despite all the analysis, all the understanding, the epidemic grows horrifically with every annual report that is published."

The United Nations this month reported 28 million of the estimated 40 million people living with HIV in the world are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Conference organizers say, of those 28 million Africans who are HIV positive, only 30,000 currently have access to anti-retro-viral drugs of the type that are readily available in the West.

In their final recommendations, conference organizers called on the international community to help African nations finance the local production of drug treatments that are currently out of reach for most Africans with HIV or AIDS.

Conference organizers also called on African nations to honor previous commitments, in which they agreed to spend more of their budgets on prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS.