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London Meeting Looks at Road Ahead for HIV/AIDS Prevention

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The British government hosted a meeting in London Tuesday to discuss the progress made towards achieving universal access to HIV prevention.  Before the meeting, Selah Hennessy spoke to ministers, aid workers, and campaigners about the importance of keeping HIV/AIDS on the global agenda.

Before the meeting at London's House of Commons, ministers and aid workers came together to talk about the road forward for HIV/AIDS prevention.

Scottish musician Annie Lennox, formerly of Eurythmics, was there and told VOA the commitment to fight HIV/AIDS cannot be broken.

"We really need to step up to the plate with the Global Millennium Development Goals," Lennox said. "We need to put more funding in - it isn't a question of pulling back now for these things to be dealt with properly."

At the G8 Summit in 2005 world leaders pledged to achieve universal access to HIV/AIDS by 2010.

But as this year's G8 and G20 June summit approaches, HIV/AIDS campaigners say still only one-third of people in need of HIV treatment worldwide receive it.

And they say they fear HIV/AIDS prevention won't be at the top of the agenda at this year's summit in Canada.

Diarmaid McDonald from the Stop AIDS Campaign says political and economic commitment to universal access is faltering - just as more is needed.   

"This is 2010 - this is the year that the people who are living with AIDS right the way around the world were promised they would all have access to HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and care and support and even though there's been a considerable improvement in the number of people on treatment, we are still over 10 million shy of our targets," McDonald said.

He says the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a crucial tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The fund recently reported that nearly 5 million lives had been saved through its programs since 2002, with 2.5 million people infected with HIV now being treated with anti-retroviral therapy.

But McDonald says the fund can not save lives if donors don't provide the money needed.

He says a cash shortage already means that doctors working in Africa are having to scale back their HIV/AIDS treatment.  

"We're seeing evidence across the developing world that doctors are having to start rationing supplies of anti-retroviral drugs, we're seeing evidence they're not being able to recruit new people and start them on their treatment services," McDonald said.

Gareth Thomas, Britain's minister for international development, added that political will is needed to keep HIV/AIDS on the global agenda.  

"It's very important that political leaders start talking again about the impact of HIV/AIDS on developing countries. And that's political leaders in the developing countries themselves, but also in developed countries as well," Thomas said.

According to the World Health Organization 33.4 million people live with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

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