U.N. Secretary General at Roundtable Discussion in India Calls on Governments To Act Against HIV/AIDS Despite High Costs
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday at an HIV/AIDS roundtable discussion in New Delhi, India, called on governments to act against the HIV/AIDS pandemic despite the "enormity of the task" and the high costs associated with fighting the disease, ANI/WebIndia123.com reports (ANI/WebIndia123.com, 4/28). The discussion -- which was organized by UNAIDS and titled "Positive Voices Against HIV/AIDS" -- included Indian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, National AIDS Control Organization Director-General S.Y. Quraishi, Dai Welfare Society Secretary Laxmi Bai and representatives of the Indian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS and other nongovernmental organizations (Rashid, Delhi Newsline, 4/28). Annan said the world must contribute $7 billion to $10 billion annually for HIV/AIDS prevention because the "[e]conomic and social costs of the disease are incalculable." He added, "AIDS is not only destroying the present but also the future. We have to continually exert pressure on the government and involve civil society in combating the disease" (IANS/WebIndia123.com, 4/28). Although the costs of fighting HIV/AIDS are increasing, UNAIDS and other organizations and governments are working together to control the disease, Annan said, according to ANI/WebIndia123.com. "I keep telling the governments that they shouldn't let the figures frighten them because if you don't tackle the issue because of seven billion (dollars) or so, you will have to spend much more," Annan said (ANI/WebIndia123.com, 4/28). UNAIDS figures released in July 2004 show that between 2.5 million and 8.5 million HIV-positive people live in India, and a government estimate places the number at 5.1 million (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/27).
Annan called HIV/AIDS a "personal priority" and asked participants in the roundtable to discuss HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention and care, as well as eliminate stigma and help women who are HIV-positive, Adnkronos International reports (Adnkronos International, 4/28). "Stigma and discrimination are rampant and hamper resistance to AIDS," he said, adding, "When it comes to AIDS, silence means death" (Delhi Newsline, 4/28). He also emphasized that more women are becoming HIV-positive and that the disease "is beginning to have a woman's face." Ramadoss said that HIV/AIDS is "not only a health care issue but a development issue," adding, "We don't want India to be another Africa. We can learn a lot from the African experience" (IANS/WebIndia123.com, 4/28).