Governments and international financial institutions have pledged $764 million in donations and loans to help Burundi tackle the country's HIV/AIDS problem and to facilitate the peace process. The pledges were made during a two-day meeting in Geneva sponsored by the U.N. Development Program.
Burundi has a debt of $1.1 billion. It says the debt has prevented the nation from effectively fighting HIV/AIDS.
Burundi is one of the most heavily-infected countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The government says it needs a minimum of $43 million a year to run AIDS prevention and care programs.
Burundi's President, Pierre Buyoya said seven years of civil war have caused AIDS to spread throughout his country. He said AIDS is killing his people and this is having incalculable consequences for development. "War in Burundi and elsewhere always exacerbates the effects of AIDS on a given population," he said through an interpreter. "In a country like Burundi, this is self-evident. Amongst what we call the most vulnerable groups, these are the most highly exposed and here we have the displaced persons chiefly in the camps for displaced persons within the country and in refugee camps outside the country."
A report produced by Burundi shows there has been an increase in poverty and a breakdown of social values as a result of war and the transmission of HIV/AIDS.
In the last decade, the report notes HIV infection rates in Burundi have risen by nearly seven percent. AIDS has become the number one cause of adult death and a major source of infant mortality.
President Buyoya said the situation will improve with peace. Although a transition government is in place, he says his government and the rebels have not yet agreed upon a cease-fire. He said his government considers this a priority and will push for negotiations to begin before the end of the year. "We are working to try to reach a cease-fire," he said through an interpreter. "We are working day and night. I am optimistic that in the coming months, we are going to reach a stage where we have resolved this problem."
Mr. Buyoya said he wants the negotiations to be completed within two or three months. He added he will not run for President when the transition period ends in eight years because this is prohibited under terms of the peace accord.