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UN AIDS Envoy Cites Progress in Africa - 2001-07-30

The United Nations envoy for AIDS in Africa says significant progress is being made in many of the countries worst-affected by the virus. He says nevertheless, more work needs to be done in the areas of prevention and treatment.

Stephen Lewis has just returned from Kenya, Rwanda and Nigeria where, he says, key areas in the fight against AIDS are being addressed successfully.

The Secretary-General's special envoy for AIDS in Africa includes in the list of successes: legislation passed in Kenya specifically designed to allow the import of anti-retrovirals, the drugs used for treatment; the efforts being made in Nigeria to find partnerships between government and businesses to help subsidize treatment programs; and the moves underway in Rwanda to curtail mother-to-child transmission of the virus.

Government leaders in Africa have been criticized for not paying enough attention to the AIDS crisis. But the U.N. envoy is emphatic that it is no longer the case. He said significant problems remain, but these should not be allowed to stop the momentum toward improved treatment and prevention.

"We must not be permitted to be discouraged," he said. "We must not be permitted to be dissuaded by the obstacles. There is tremendous progress which can now be made in the face of the obstacles, and indeed the entire continent can re-embrace survival and flourish if we overcome the obstacles. But the constraints need not inhibit," said Mr. Lewis.

Mr. Lewis added that in the wake of his most recent trip, he is increasingly confident that the pandemic of HIV infections can be halted. He pointed to encouraging signs, such as the success of a U.N. sponsored initiative that uses traditional theatre and other customs in local communities to teach awareness about the disease. Nonetheless, he said the United Nations and countries around the world need to devote still more resources to carry on the fight.