Simone Gbagbo - the wife of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gragbo - has launched a month-long campaign to raise awareness in the fight against AIDS.

Mrs. Gbagbo says she wants to end the stigma surrounding AIDS, which deters people from seeking help and getting tested. According to official statistics, 12 percent of Ivorians are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Officials say many more people may be infected and not know it.

Mrs. Gbagbo says she is making AIDS awareness a personal campaign. Her assistant, Jean Claude Dogo, explains. "She said she has chosen this topic as a personal fight, because if we don't do something about AIDS in our country, within 50 years we will not find any Ivorians in Cote d'Ivoire. So we must begin with this dangerous threat before tackling other things like the fight against poverty," Mr. Dogo says.

Over the next month, the campaign will seek to educate people about AIDS. Officials will also look for partnerships with community and business leaders.

Critics say poverty prevents many people from getting proper medical care. Ivory Coast has pledged to fight for lower drug prices and plans to introduce a universal health care program in 2002.