Clinton, Mandela Call for Renewed Effort Against HIV/AIDS, Recognition of AIDS as Threat to Peace and Economics
Former President Clinton and former South African President Nelson Mandela today at the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, called for renewed efforts to combat HIV/AIDS on an international scale and asked world leaders to "recognize that the AIDS epidemic is a threat to international peace and economic stability," the
Associated Press reports. "We cannot lose our war against AIDS and win our battle against poverty, promote stability, advance democracy and increase peace and prosperity," Clinton said, adding, "One hundred million AIDS cases means more terror, more mercenaries, more war, destruction and the failure of fragile democracies." He also said wealthy nations need to "figure out" their share of the $10 billion estimated to be needed annually to fight the diseases on an international scale and called on the United States to contribute nearly $2 billion to the effort. Mandela called HIV/AIDS a "war against humanity" that requires the "mobilization of entire populations." He stated that antiretroviral drugs need to be made available "for all those that need it, wherever they may be in the world, regardless of whether they can afford it" (Ross, Associated Press, 7/12).
A Webcast of the closing ceremony is available online.
In an interview yesterday with the BBC, Mandela said that it was "[n]ot only [HIV/AIDS] itself" that was taking a toll, but also "the stigma that accompanies it" and urged world leaders to help bring an end to stigma and discrimination. He said that greater efforts need to be undertaken to bring HIV/AIDS education to rural areas. "The only way for us to help [people in rural areas] is for us to go to the traditional leaders and say to them let us go from house to house, from village to village, telling people that if you don't report that you have AIDS you are signing your own death warrant," he said (BBC News, 7/12).
Attendees 'Grim' as Conference Wraps Up
The mood on the final day of the conference was "grim" as attendees pondered the "gloomy assessment" of the epidemic that was presented over the course of the week, Agence France-Presse reports. An estimated 15,000 researchers, public health officials and representatives from nongovernmental organizations attended the six-day event, which researchers said was a "reminder of the long road ahead" in the fight against HIV/AIDS. "Much of the conference was marked by the sobering news that there is no cure or vaccine in the foreseeable future," Ronald Valdiserri, deputy director of the CDC's National Center for HIV Prevention, said, adding, "(This) points to the need for a renewal in HIV prevention in the United States and across the globe." International AIDS Vaccine Initiative President Seth Berkley described the news at the conference as a "splash of cold water" and a "reality check." Agence France-Presse reports that the mood among many grass-roots activists was "bitter" over what they perceived to be a continued lack of funding from wealthy nations (Ingham, Agence France-Presse, 7/12). The next International AIDS Conference will convene in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2004 (XIV International AIDS Conference Web site, 7/12).
NPR's "Morning Edition" today reported on the overall conference and its findings. The full segment will be available in RealPlayer Audio online after noon ET (Browning, "Morning Edition," 7/12).