Annan says fight against AIDS requires total mobilisation

New York- UN (PANA) -- UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan says dealing with the HIV/AIDS scourge in Africa requires the co-operation of all leaders on the continent, working together and mobilising their whole societies.
Ahead of his trip to Abuja, Nigeria to attend an African Summit on AIDS and other communicable diseases, Annan said in an interview in New York Thursday that "complete social mobilisation from top to bottom" was required if the fight against AIDS was to succeed.
The AIDS pandemic, he said, is a very serious concern to Africa and the world because it has decimated the continent's most productive population.
"It is an epidemic that is not only affecting the present prospect for Africa, but is also in a way, taking away the future by deaths of so many productive people in the professional classes," he said.
Out of the global AIDS population of about 30 million, 25 million are said to be Africans.
The continent also has more than 10 million children orphaned by the disease.
In dealing with the pandemic, Annan advised that the strategy should focus on prevention, care, education and also cure and vaccine.
For AIDS patients in poor countries, the Secretary General, said there is greater hope now that they can have access to available treatment in the light of recent agreement by major manufacturers of AIDS drugs to reduce their prices for poor countries.
Acknowledging that even the reduced prices were still too expensive for the poor in Africa, Annan said the UN is working on an approach that would encourage donor governments and private groups to contribute resources to the fight against health problems, including AIDS.
"I think the international community, the donor community is beginning to wake up and tackle these issues the way they ought to," he remarked, explaining, however, that the response is yet to get close to the requirement.
"But we are pressing ahead and hope we get the resources and affordable drugs.
" Going by decisions reached by pharmaceutical companies during his meeting with their representatives in Amsterdam earlier in April, Annan said, he hoped the process of getting needed AIDS drugs to poor victims in developing countries would move faster.
At that meeting, he said, the pharmaceutical companies agreed to arrange the sale of AIDS drugs to the Least Developed Countries as a group and not through country by country negotiations.
For other developing countries that are not in the category of least developed countries, he said, the drug makers have decided to deal with them on individual country basis.
To ensure effective distribution of the drugs, the UN chief said the drug makers intend to provide the drugs, not only to governments, but also to non-governmental organisations and private companies, that give care to their staff and the communities.
"So you have three agencies that can have access to medication for distribution and once you remove country by country approval, you should be able to reach many more countries much faster," he stated.
Annan said recently he would take a leading role in the fight against AIDS.
He is expected to give an outline of UN strategy on dealing with the disease at the 25-27 April Abuja meeting.
Some 20 Heads of State and government are expected at the meeting, convened by the OAU in collaboration with Nigeria, the UN co-ordinating agency for AIDS (UNAIDS), the Economic Commission for Africa, and other partners.
The UN General Assembly has also scheduled a special session on AIDS for June.

19 Abril 2001 21:42:00

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