The United Nations' secretary general, Kofi Annan, has called for spending on AIDS to be increased 10-fold in developing countries. He wants a “war chest” of $7bn-10bn (£5bn-7bn) to be spent annually on a global campaign against AIDS, a massive increase on the $1bn a year that is currently spent.
Speaking at a meeting of the Organisation of African Unity in Abuja, Nigeria, Mr Annan issued a call to donors in the hope that firm commitments would be made to the fund by the time that the United Nations held its special session on HIV and AIDS at the end of June.
Although 25 million people are living with HIV in Africa—70% of the infected adults and children worldwide—only about 25000 have access to antiretroviral treatment. The plight of Africa has caught the attention, and the conscience, of the world, the Secretary-General stated, and Africa is no longer being left to face the disaster of AIDS alone.
Calling the battle against AIDS his “personal priority,” Mr Annan outlined five priority areas for the campaign:
- Preventing further spread of the epidemic: large scale awareness campaigns are needed, as is access to voluntary counselling, testing, and, when appropriate, condoms. About a third of the 36 million people infected with HIV worldwide are aged 15-24
- Reducing HIV transmission from mother to child: mothers should be able to find out whether they are HIV positive and have access to short term antiretroviral treatment. About 600000 children acquired HIV last year, the vast majority from vertical transmission
- Ensuring care and treatment is within reach of all: six of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies are now ready to sell drugs to developing countries at greatly reduced prices. Access to affordable drugs to treat HIV infection, however, is only part of the care package, which includes voluntary counselling and testing, home and community based care, and treatment for opportunistic infections
- Delivering scientific breakthroughs: more funding is needed for finding a cure and a vaccine for AIDS
- Protecting those made vulnerable by the epidemic, especially orphans: help should be provided for the 13 million children—most in sub-Saharan Africa—who have lost their mothers or both parents to AIDS.
- Mr Annan called on the African leaders attending the summit to break the wall of silence and embarrassment surrounding the AIDS issue in many African societies, to remove the discrimination and stigma attached to those infected, and to mobilise more of their domestic budgets against the pandemic.