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Clinton Signs AIDS Pledge In Hanoi

On a visit to strengthen efforts to provide HIV/AIDS treatment, former U.S. President Bill Clinton strolled the streets of the Vietnamese capital, met with young Vietnamese and discussed the work of the newly opened Hanoi office of The Clinton Foundation. But beyond the public relations effort, getting the details right in treating people living with AIDS will still take time, as Matt Steinglass reports for VOA from Hanoi.

Mr. Clinton went for a walk around Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake this morning. In an echo of the exuberant reception he received on his first visit to Vietnam in 2000, when he was President of the United States, dozens of Vietnamese citizens came up to him with greetings, giggles and requests for autographs.

Later, in his meeting with President Nguyen Minh Triet, Mr. Clinton said he counts the normalization of relations between the two former enemies as one of the major achievements of his administration.

He said, "I think the political and economic and personal ties which have grown up between our two peoples in the last 10 years or so are a good model for what our world could be in the twenty-first century."

The former president was in Vietnam to visit the new office here of the Clinton Foundation, which works on prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, especially in children.

Vietnam officially lists 250,000 people with HIV, but unofficial figures are higher.

Mr. Clinton signed an agreement with Vietnam's Ministry of Health that will provide a year's worth of anti-retroviral or ARV drug treatment to 800 children and 900 pregnant mothers, as well as training for health staff.

Later in the day, Clinton held a panel discussion with six young Vietnamese, including the HIV-positive activist Pham Thi Hue. She says the efforts of foreign organizations and the Vietnamese government are having an effect.

Hue said stigmatization of HIV-positive people is declining, and drug treatment improving.

But some experts have questioned the Clinton Foundation's exclusive focus on children and pregnant women. They say that in some cases children receive treatment, but not their parents, or the other way around.

Doan Thi Quyen, an HIV-positive mother from Haiphong, was in the audience at Clinton's event. She and her six-year-old daughter receive drugs through separate programs. Other parents are not so lucky.

Quyen says in Haiphong, many parents do not receive ARV drugs, and have less access than children do.

Mr. Clinton said the focus on children was necessary, because until recently, few children in the developing world were receiving treatment.

In the meantime, he said, the most important task is to educate people, and to reduce stigma towards people with HIV.