Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday in Nairobi called for an all-out war to contain the spread of HIV/AIDS, saying the disease has assumed the dimension of a crisis not only for Kenya but for Africa and the whole world.
Powell made the call when he visited an HIV/AIDS programme being funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in the Kibera slum on the outskirts of Nairobi which is home to nearly one million people.
"We must come together to do what we can.
It is more than a health issue," he said, promising that Washington would provide eight million dollars for the programme.
He also stressed the importance of preventive measures and the need to protect young people from infection.
People should not he stigmatised because of the disease, he added.
Seventy percent of resources devoted to fighting the pandemic should be channelled to preventive measures, he said, adding that the Bush administration would do everything to reduce the cost of AIDS drugs, with a view to eventually find a lasting cure.
Earlier, Kenyan health minister, Sam Ongeri, told the gathering which included Vice President George Saitoti, that AIDS had reversed years of progress in the country with life expectancy dropping from 63 to 48 years.
The pandemic claims an average of 500 lives daily.
It has created about one million orphans while 2.
2 million of the country's 29 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS.
He said President Daniel Arap Moi in 1999 declared AIDS a "national disaster" and established a National AIDS Control Council in his office involving all ministries with committees down to the constituency level.
But the government's efforts to tackle the menace are being hampered by inadequate resources, rising poverty, slow behavioural attitude to change and traditional norms.
The high-point of the function came with an emotional presentation of an AIDS patient and activist, Patricia Asero, who said there was urgent need to make drugs affordable to people affected by the pandemic.
"Every Kenyan has a friend or relative infected or dying of AIDS.
Although effective medicines exist, my husband and my baby both died of AIDS because we could not afford the anti-retroviral treatment," she told a visibly moved Powell.
Asero added: "We are asking you to show us that the US government is serious about supporting HIV treatment for Africans by providing more funding to fight this global epidemic and by supporting all legal measures, including generic competition to ensure access to life-sustaining medicines, including anti-retrovirals in developing countries.
" US-based pharmaceutical companies own the licenses for the production of most of the drugs used in treatment of HIV which are expensive and efforts to get them to make these drugs available to patients in poor country has so far met with stiff resistance.
However, Powell said efforts should be made to cut down the cost of AIDS drugs, promising that President Bush and his administration would work hard to find a cure for the pandemic.