The Ivory Coast is hosting the first-ever region-wide conference specifically dealing with the HIV / AIDS crisis in West and Central Africa.

The conference, sponsored by the U-N Children's Fund, is being held this week in Yamoussoukro and brings together 150 participants from 23 countries. U-N spokeswoman Wivina Belmonte says the conference is focusing on ways to prevent the disease from spreading as it has in southeastern Africa, where the world's most infected populations reside.

Ms. Belmonte says that AIDS has already left its mark on west-central Africa, leaving a million orphans in Nigeria and 600 thousand in the Ivory Coast. She says one of the goals of the conference is to persuade governments to take a more active role in fighting the disease and provide more money to protect HIV-infected orphans.