Annan Calls for ‘Global Superfund’ to Combat AIDS at Opening of Abuja Summit
Kicking off the Organization of African Unity AIDS summit today in Abuja, Nigeria, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed a "global superfund" to subsidize the cost of HIV prevention, care and antiretroviral treatment in Africa, Reuters/New York Times reports. Declaring the fight against AIDS his "personal priority," Annan said his plan would be financed by wealthy nations and private contributors, and also called for the developing world to "give priority in their budgets to comprehensive health systems." Such a system is estimated to cost between $7 billion and $10 billion per year, compared to the $1 billion currently spent on the disease in developing nations (Reuters/New York Times, 4/26). In addition, Annan called for large increases in funding for AIDS education, HIV testing, condoms, HIV drugs, scientific research and improved health care. His proposal outlined five goals: prevention of further virus spread; reduction of HIV transmission from mother to child; the promise that care and treatment is available to all; delivery of scientific breakthroughs; and protection of those most vulnerable to the disease, particularly orphans (Da Costa, AP/Nando Times, 4/25). Annan's five priorities for action were accompanied by five "crucial means" to attain the goals, including "a deep social revolution that will give more power to women" (Agence France-Presse, 4/26). Annan told the African leaders assembled at the summit to break the "wall of silence and embarrassment" about the disease in their countries and "demonstrate that they are prepared to battle the worst epidemic of modern times" (Collins/Warner, Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/26).
African Leaders Agree to Declaration
Yesterday, the African heads of state agreed at a pre-summit meeting on a draft declaration calling on the 53 member countries of the Organization of African Unity to import and manufacture their own generic AIDS drugs, "preferably in partnership with donors and pharmaceutical companies." In addition, the document says signatories should spend at least 15% of annual government budgets on "a comprehensive multisector response" to the epidemic, including funding of non-governmental AIDS commissions and committees. Currently, most of the countries only spend between 5% and 10% of their budgets on their entire health systems (AP/Nando Times, 4/25). The summit is one of the first meetings for which African heads of state have gathered specifically to address AIDS, and they are joined by top officials from the WHO, UNAIDS, the World Bank, Doctors Without Borders, and major drug companies. A five-member group from the United States led by Nancy Powell, acting assistant secretary of state for African affairs, is attending the event, "bring[ing] a message that the Bush administration is interested in helping, but only if there is stronger African leadership" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/26). Former President Bill Clinton is also attending the conference and was due to address the leaders during the summit's opening ceremony, as "the AIDS epidemic in Africa and other countries was an important part of his agenda at the White House and will continue to be in his post-presidency," a spokesperson said (Agence France-Presse, 4/26). Clinton yesterday said that the South African government was not spending enough money on drugs for citizens with HIV/AIDS (Reuters, 4/26).