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Mandela Presses Global Community to Renew AIDS Commitment - 2004-07-16


Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela says AIDS is the greatest threat in human history. The former South African president spoke at the closing ceremony of the 15th International AIDS Conference.

Nelson Mandela warns history will judge the world harshly if it does not respond to AIDS with all the necessary energy and resources. Friday, he called on donors to provide more money, especially for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

"We need to build the public-private partnership that is the vision of the Global Fund. We challenge everyone to help fund the Fund now," he said.

"Fund the Fund" has been the rallying cry of demonstrators at the conference. They have criticized the United States and other rich countries for not giving enough to the Global Fund.

Speaking at the close of the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Mr. Mandela called for the recognition of the human rights of those with HIV/AIDS, especially for those most at risk, such as refugees, injecting drug users, and sex workers.

Mr. Mandela says he came out of retirement to speak at the conference to stress the urgency of the epidemic.

He turns 86 on Sunday, and for his birthday he asked for leaders to renew their commitment to fight AIDS.

"We know what needs to be done, all that is missing is the will to do it," he said. "Allow me to enjoy my retirement by showing that you can rise to the challenge."

Also at the closing ceremony, Sonia Gandhi, the leader of India's ruling party, said her country is committed to fighting the epidemic. India has the world's second-largest number of people with HIV.

Mrs. Gandhi says her government is increasing funding for AIDS programs and will begin providing antiretroviral treatment for people with HIV/AIDS.

"Many in my country believe we that we are paying disproportionate attention to HIV/AIDS at the expense of tuberculosis and malaria, for instance," she said. "But the present government does not share this view." With no major breakthroughs in vaccines or treatment announced at the conference, policy debates over funding and prevention methods overshadowed science. Critics charge that the U.S. policy focuses too much on sexual abstinence and not enough on condom use, but U.S. delegates say Washington supports a variety of strategies in fighting AIDS.

Demonstrators protesting drug prices and the U.S. AIDS policy disrupted some speeches and damaged some pharmaceutical company displays. But the organizers consider the conference a success.

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