UN meeting issues global strategy for tackling AIDS

New York- United States (PANA) -- Political and business leaders and representatives of civil society organisations concluded a three-day meeting on AIDS at the UN Wednesday, with a blueprint to guide international efforts in the fight against the epidemic.
The blueprint, contained in a declaration of commitment by world leaders, sets out targets and ways of dealing with the crisis, ranging from leadership commitment at all levels, prevention, care and treatment and respect for the human rights of patients.
The declaration also calls for support for children orphaned by AIDS, the alleviation of the social and economic impact of the epidemic, the provision of adequate resources for the anti-AIDS war and the conduct of research for a vaccine.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan described the meeting, held under the auspices of the General Assembly, as historic by the level of attendance and the strategy contained in the declaration.
About 3,000 delegates attended the meeting, 2,000 of them from civil society organisations.
Among the strategies issued at the meeting, prevention was stressed as the mainstay of international response to the crisis.
In prevention, the meeting agreed that every country should establish by 2003 time-bound prevention targets, including the reduction of HIV prevalence among young people by 25 percent between 2005 and 2010.
Issues to be covered in prevention work include, challenging gender stereotypes and inequalities in relation to the disease and encouraging the involvement of men and boys, facilitating access to information on health and social services and implementing universal precautions in healthcare settings to prevent transmission.
Prevention programmes, which should be ready for implementation by 2005, are to be established in public, private and informal work sectors.
The programmes are to aim at reducing risk behaviour and encouraging responsible sexual behaviour and access to male and female condoms, sterile injecting equipment, as well as counselling and testing.
The declaration requires that at least 90 percent of young people have access to HIV education by 2005, while the percentage should increase to 95 percent five years later.
In respect of infants, the document states that efforts be made to reduce infant infection by 20 percent by 2005 and by 50 percent by 2010.
This is to be done by ensuring that 80 percent of pregnant women have information on prevention services and providing treatment for HIV-infected women and babies to reduce mother-to- child transmission.
The declaration also underscored the need for care, support and treatment for AIDS patients.
Central to the effort is the development by 2003 of national strategies, supported by international strategies, to strengthen healthcare systems and address issues of pricing and affordability of anti-retroviral drugs and the treatment of opportunistic infections.
By 2004, governments are expected to develop and begin to implement comprehensive strategies to strengthen family and community-based care, which will help in monitoring treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Improvements are to be made in the capacity and working conditions of health care personnel, in the effectiveness of supply systems and in referral mechanisms for providing access to affordable medicines.
Many activists at the meeting stressed the importance of treatment to prevention strategies, since it served as an incentive for people to get tested and thus begin to have access to care and information to avoid risk behaviour.
While some developed countries appeared to favour prevention over treatment, developing countries, particularly those from Africa where the scourge has been worst, rooted for equal focus on treatment.
Though 17 African heads of state and government attended the meeting, South African President Thabo Mbeki was conspicuously absent.
He was in Washington, D.
, on an official visit at the time of the meeting.

27 june 2001 23:07:00

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