Annan, Obasanjo call for Anti-AIDS Trust Fund

Abuja- Nigeria (PANA) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo have called for the establishment of a global trust fund to help raise the necessary resources to battle HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.
Speaking at opening of the African AIDS Summit in Abuja, the Nigerian capital Thursday, Annan, said a "warchest" of between seven and 10 billion dollars was needed yearly over a long period of time to combat the disease.
Obasanjo followed in his speech by explaining that his advocated fund, would receive grants from all governments, "particularly from rich governments, multilateral agencies, philanthropists and private businesses.
" Annan said the fund must be structured in such a way as to ensure that it responds to the needs of the affected countries and people.
"I intend to pursue this idea with all concerned over the next few weeks, and I hope that in the very near future the fund will be up and running," the UN Secretary-General said.
It was not clear if both leaders had consulted before the Summit on the need to create the fund, which will tremendously step up Africa's response to the scourge, which has been hampered by the grinding poverty on the continent.
There is a huge gap between the three to four billion dollars needed to combat the disease on the continent and the current annual commitments of less than half a billion dollars.
Annan said money was needed for education and awareness campaigns, for HIV tests, for condoms, for drugs, and for scientific research, to provide care for orphans and to improve healthcare systems.
He said though the amount needed "sounds a lot," a quantum leap could be brought about in the scale of resources available.
"It is not at all impossible, given the amount of wealth in the world.
In fact, it is little more than one percent of the world's annual military spending," he said.
Annan, who said he had made the battle against AIDS his personal priority, linked the fact that Africa has become the epicentre of the disease to the developmental problems on the continent.
"Africans are vulnerable to these diseases because they are poor, undernourished, and too often, uninformed of basic precautions or unwilling to take them.
"Many are vulnerable because they have neither safe drinking water nor access to basic health.
They are vulnerable, in short, because their countries are underdeveloped, and therefore the cure for all these diseases is economic growth and broad-based development," he said.
The UN chief told the leaders that their objectives should include prevention, stopping mother-to- child transmission, which he described as the "cruellest, most unjust infections of all," care and treatment of all infected persons, encouragement of research to deliver scientific breakthroughs and protecting those made most vulnerable by the epidemic, especially orphans.
The objectives, he said, can be achieved if African leaders can provide the necessary leadership, involve local communities in efforts to tackle the disease, empower women and develop stronger healthcare systems.
Annan said the ideas he enumerated resulted from extensive consultations within the UN system, with member States, philanthropic organisations, private companies and civil society.
On what he expected from the Summit, the UN Secretary- General said: "Our successes will not be measured by resolutions passed, appointments made, or even funds raised.
It will be measured in the lives of succeeding generations.

26 april 2001 18:58:00

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