Until September 11, eradication of AIDS topped the agenda of many countries where the disease is rampant. But U.N. officials say the terrorist attacks in the United States dealt a blow to worldwide efforts to raise money to fight AIDS.

When he established the Global AIDS Fund last summer, U.N. Secretary General Koffi Anan set a goal of $7 billion. Nations have so far donated $1.6 billion.

The money is earmarked for HIV prevention programs in the hardest hit countries, and to treat those infected with AIDS who might otherwise not have access to life-prolonging, anti-retroviral drugs.

But the head of the United Nations Program on AIDS - Peter Piot - says efforts to raise more money have slowed dramatically since the September 11 terrorist attacks. "The September 11th events were a major blow to a global agenda such as AIDS, where we were really into an unprecedented momentum politically, not only internationally, not only in Western countries, but in many of the very affected countries," he said. "And it has been affected by it in terms of pledges, funding for like the global fund, but also it has been more difficult for us to include AIDS in the political dialogue."

Nevertheless, Dr. Piot is optimistic that the AIDS fund will be up and operating for countries most in need by the end of January.

The UN AIDS chief is also concerned the impact of the war in Afghanistan may increase the spread of HIV. "What we are worried about with the war in Afghanistan and the population movements - with the perhaps the appearance on the market of cheap heroine - that the surrounding countries may also see an increase in the number of new infections," Dr. Piot. "I am thinking of the central Asian republics, which had starting epidemics, but perhaps also Pakistan."

The sale of heroine is reported to be one way the Taleban and Osama Bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist organization raise money.