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Annan Reports Some Progress in Global Fight Against HIV/AIDS - 2003-09-22

The U.N. General Assembly is devoting a day-long session to publicizing the battle to halt the spread of the AIDS virus.

Mr. Annan told delegates there has been progress in fighting HIV/AIDS since the General Assembly adopted its declaration of commitment two years ago. He noted that the Global Fund against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has committed $1.5 billion to 93 countries. Moreover, a vast majority of countries now have national anti-AIDS strategies in place.

But the U.N. leader described the annual progress report as sobering reading. He said many objectives set for this year have not been met, and the world body is far behind in efforts to meet targets set for 2005.

"One third of all countries still have no policies to ensure that women have access to prevention and care, even though women now account for 50 percent of those infected worldwide," Mr. Annan said. "More than a third of heavily affected countries still have no strategies in place for looking after the increasing number of AIDS orphans."

Dr. Peter Piot, head of the U.N. AIDS effort, called the new report on AIDS a wake-up call to the world. He said there are several large gaps in the campaign to control the spread of the deadly virus.

"The first gap is that 99 percent of pregnant women in heavily affected countries still do not have access to services that will reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV," explained Dr. Piot. "Second gap is that 99 percent of people infected with HIV and who need treatment in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to drugs and treatment they need."

Dr. Piot said he was encouraged by the participation of leaders from hard-hit countries in Africa and the Caribbean. But he accused many East European, Asian, and Middle Eastern leaders of negligence for not including AIDS as a top policy priority.

Twenty heads of state are participating in the day-long AIDS session at the General Assembly, but Dr. Piot noted that none is from Asia.