Hospitals Treat HIV Infected Patients
Shaul Schwarz  /  Getty Images file
Female patients sleep March 22 at the Sisters Missionary of Charity Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where more than 80 percent of the women in the hospital are HIV-positive.
updated 6/2/2005 1:29:02 PM ET 2005-06-02T17:29:02

Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday warned that the AIDS epidemic is accelerating on every continent and called for more money and leadership to halt its spread by the U.N. target date of 2015.

In an opening address to representatives of 127 countries at a high-level conference, Annan said the scale of the global response to the scourge of AIDS has been significant, but insufficient because “it has not matched the epidemic in scale.”

“Last year saw more new infections and more AIDS-related deaths than ever before,” he said. “Indeed, HIV and AIDS expanded at an accelerating rate on every continent.”

Treatment and prevention efforts lacking
Treatment and prevention efforts also were insufficient, Annan said.

“Only 12 percent of the people in need of antiretroviral therapies in low- and middle-income countries were receiving them. And while young people — especially young women — account for more than half of all new infections , most of the world’s young people still lacked meaningful access to youth-oriented prevention services,” he said.

“It is now clear that the epidemic continues to outrun our efforts to contain it,” he said.

The daylong conference was being held to assess progress toward meeting targets set at a U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001 to start tackling the crisis.

They include reducing HIV prevalence among men and women ages 15 to 24 by at least 25 percent by the end of 2005, providing those young people with information, education and services to protect themselves from infection, reducing the proportion of infants infected with HIV by 20 percent, and expanding treatment.

Encouraging signs
Annan said it is possible to break the cycle of new HIV infections and halt the spread of AIDS, as Brazil, Cambodia and Thailand have demonstrated with successful prevention programs. He said there are encouraging signs in the same direction in countries from the Bahamas to Cameroon, Kenya and Zambia.

But to meet the U.N. goal of halting and reversing the spread of HIV and AIDS by 2015, he said more resources are needed from traditional donors, the private sector and the most affected countries themselves. More effective planning and better and more vocal leadership also are needed at every level as well as “a real investment in the empowerment of women and girls,” he said.

Annan said halting the AIDS epidemic is a prerequisite for meeting all the other U.N. development goals — including cutting in half the number of people living in dire poverty, and ensuring an elementary school education for all children by 2015.

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'The great challenge of our age'
“That is why the fight against AIDS may be the great challenge of our age and our generation,” Annan said. “Only if we meet this challenge can we succeed in our efforts to build a humane, healthy and equitable world. Let us ensure we are equal to the task.”

Peter Piot, head of the U.N. campaign to combat AIDS, said the last four years have demonstrated “that this is an unprecedented global crisis.”

“Unless and until we control this global epidemic, it will continue to expand and worsen,” he said.

Piot said the global fight against AIDS is seeing its first signs of success in hardest-hit Africa. But he said the $8 billion being spent this year to combat the disease must be doubled to between $14 billion and $16 billion annually.

General Assembly President Jean Ping called on delegates at the meeting — including 36 ministers — to make recommendations to a summit of world leaders in September that Annan has called to focus on the U.N. development goals.

$7 billion to $8 billion shortfall
Piot said he expects the leaders to tackle the $7 billion to $8 billion shortfall in fighting AIDS.

“That’s where the big financial commitments will be made,” he said.

On a positive note, Piot cited declines in the number of new HIV infections among young people in the capitals of Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia and Uganda, where people are more educated and prevention programs have started.

“That means that something is moving, that we start seeing success — the first signs of success in Africa,” he said.

The challenge now, he said, is to expand prevention and treatment programs and services to rural areas and to all developing countries.

At Thursday’s meeting, Piot said, there will also be an update on research into AIDS vaccines and microbicides, which are gels or creams that women could use to kill the HIV virus during sexual intercourse.

Developing a microbicide would be “a breakthrough because then for the first time women would have a method that’s under their control” since condoms are controlled by men, he said.

“For microbicides, I think it’s realistic to expect there will be something within the next four or five years,” Piot said. “Vaccines — we don’t know.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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