2005-12-01-Controversy clouds World Aids Day

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2005-12-01-Controversy clouds World Aids Day

 

International disagreement over how to fight the global HIV/Aids pandemic has persisted on World Aids Day.

Swaziland, with the world's highest rate of HIV, cut Aids day events, and South Africa's health minister publicly refused to back anti-retroviral drugs.

US President George W Bush pledged new funds and called for decisive action. The EU stressed the need for effective measures to prevent the disease.

More than 40m people are infected with HIV/Aids, according to the UN.

"The lessons of nearly 25 years into the Aids epidemic are clear. Investments made in HIV prevention break the cycle of new infections," said Peter Piot, executive director of UNAids.

"By making these investments, each and every country can reverse the spread of Aids."

 

In other developments on World Aids Day:


Former US President Bill Clinton tells the BBC's Talking Point programme that it is a "moral imperative to treat the largest number of people we can with whatever money we have"


The World Health Organization adds two new anti-retroviral drugs to the list of approved medicines

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calls for people to shed inhibitions and start discussing sex in an effort to increase Aids awareness

Estonia, the EU country with the highest number of infections, announces a 10-year plan to cut infection

The African state of Lesotho launched the world's first door-to-door HIV testing service.

UK pledge

Mr Bush said that extra funds for HIV/Aids relief would be channelled to "faith based" organisations.

Speaking in Washington, he praised the efforts of health workers around the world, singling out sub-Saharan Africa, where infection rates are highest.

The US is committed to an "ABC" policy on Aids prevention - abstinence, being faithful and using a condom if necessary - which it says reflects the wishes of African countries.

The European Union, which is more sceptical about abstinence, said it was "profoundly concerned" at what it said was a resurgence of incomplete, ineffective messages on HIV prevention.

The UK pledged £27.5m ($47m) to Aids prevention programmes.

International Development Secretary Hilary Benn said abstinence needed to be backed by adequate access to sexual and reproductive health information.

'Why march?'

Twin southern African snubs were setbacks for campaigners aiming to raise global awareness and education levels about HIV/Aids, correspondents say.

South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who has long been lukewarm over the usefulness of anti-retroviral drugs, refused to back their use.

In an interview, she said she might use food supplements or traditional medicines if she became infected.

In Swaziland, a royal decree cancelled a planned speech on Aids by the prime minister, citing a clash with a traditional festival.

Some 38% of Swazi adults are HIV positive, rising to 56% for women in their late twenties.

In Nigeria, President Olusegun Obasanjo went for and early morning run with HIV-positive joggers.

But not all in his country, Africa's most populous, were joining in official celebrations.

Lagos craftsman Mufu Adebajo watched from his roadside stall as a small procession filed past.

"Since I believe I don't have it, I don't see why I should march," he told the Associated Press news agency.

"Otherwise, people will think I have it."

 


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