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Clinton Urges Global Plan to Combat AIDS

Clinton said at the close of the conference in Barcelona, Spain, ”We cannot lose our war against AIDS and win our battle against poverty, promote stability, advance democracy and increase peace and prosperity.”

Clinton urged governments of wealthy nations to determine their “share” of the yearly $10 billion price tag that the United Nations says in necessary to support global AIDS programs. He called on the U.S. government to increase its spending by nearly $2 billion, which he compared to the cost of “less than two months of the Afghan war,” or three percent of the requested budget increase for homeland security.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela called AIDS a “war against humanity” and called specific attention to the cause of AIDS orphans, whose numbers are expected to rise to 25 million by the year 2010.

“Nothing can shake me more than the sight of these innocent young children suffering physically, socially and emotionally. This is a tragedy of enormous consequences,” Mandela said.

This year’s conference was the largest ever, gathering some 15,000 doctors, world leaders and activists to discuss the many layers of issues involved in the fight against AIDS.

Participants focused on key issues of how to get medications to people who need them, the plight of women in HIV-ravaged countries and the cost of preventing the spread of the disease and treating those already afflicted.

Much discussion was spurred by new reports showing that new medical developments are not helping people with the AIDS virus in developing countries. According to a recent World Health Organization report, less than one percent of people infected with the virus in the developing world are receiving drug treatment.

Seth Berkley, president of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, called the conference “a splash of cold water” on the state of the global fight against AIDS.

The next International AIDS Conference is slated for 2004 in Bangkok, Thailand.