Africans Must Intensify Fight Against HIV/AIDS, U.N. Secretary-General Annan Says
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday said that HIV/AIDS is "robbing" African communities of their future and they must do more to combat the disease on the continent, Reuters reports (Reuters, 7/8). According to the 2004 UNAIDS Report of the Global AIDS Epidemic, which UNAIDS released on Tuesday, sub-Saharan Africa remains the most affected region in the world with approximately 25 million people living with HIV/AIDS. An increase in the number of AIDS-related deaths and a continued increase in the number of new HIV cases have led to a stabilization of HIV prevalence in the region. Sub-Saharan Africa -- which accounts for 10% of the world's population but more than 65% of the world's HIV/AIDS cases -- saw three million new HIV cases and 2.2 million deaths in 2003 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/6). There is a "need for all of us to become engaged to fight this epidemic, which on this continent is really taking away the future of many societies and many communities," Annan said after meeting with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in Nairobi, Kenya (Reuters, 7/8). He added that the HIV/AIDS epidemic currently "has marked a woman's face in Africa," saying, "Women are much more affected than men and we really, really need to tackle this epidemic" (Ngowi, Associated Press, 7/8). In Africa, women are more likely than men to become infected with HIV at an early age. The country ratios of young HIV-positive women to young HIV-positive men range from 20 women for every 10 men in South Africa to 45 women for every 10 men in Kenya and Mali (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/6). Annan said that although it is necessary for political leaders to head the fight against the disease, "Each and every one of us must take on the challenge" of curbing the spread of HIV (Associated Press, 7/8).
'Critical Point' in Asia
Annan, during the opening ceremony of the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Meeting on Sunday morning ahead of the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, called on Asian leaders to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region, Xinhuanet reports (Xinhuanet, 7/11). Asia, which accounts for 60% of the world's population, is at a "critical point" in the epidemic, which affects one in four people in the region, Annan said, according to Reuters. "Let us be clear, how you address this challenge will impact on the very future of the region," Annan said (Schuettler, Reuters, 7/11). He called for a "coordinated response, from all sectors of society and every branch of government;" otherwise, HIV/AIDS could reverse all the gains Asia has made against poverty, according to Dow Jones International News (Dow Jones International News, 7/10). The Asian HIV/AIDS epidemic within the next three years could exceed the scale of the epidemic seen in sub-Saharan Africa if leaders in the region do not take "decisiv[e]" action -- especially in India, China and Indonesia -- Annan said, according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse, 7/10). The United Nations Development Program also has said that Thailand -- once a "model" for HIV/AIDS prevention programs in Asia -- has "lost its momentum" in its efforts to combat the epidemic. The country's public information and education campaigns are "faint"; public concern about the disease has "ebbed"; funding for HIV/AIDS programs "no longer matches the renewed threat"; and HIV prevalence in the country is "unacceptably high" among injection drug users, men who have sex with men, mobile populations and fishermen, according to the UNDP (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/8).