Pubdate: Fri, 12 Jul 2002
Source: Augusta Chronicle, The (GA)
Copyright: 2002 The Augusta Chronicle


BARCELONA, Spain - Former President Clinton and South African leader
Nelson Mandela called on world leaders Friday to recognize that the
AIDS epidemic is a threat to international peace and economic stability.

"We cannot lose our war against AIDS and win our battle against
poverty, promote stability, advance democracy and increase peace and
prosperity,'' Clinton told a Barcelona audience that cheered wildly as
he and Mandela embraced.

"One hundred million AIDS cases means more terror, more mercenaries,
more war, destruction, and the failure of fragile democracies,''
Clinton said at the close of the 14th International AIDS Conference.

Clinton called on governments of rich countries to "figure out what
our share is'' of the yearly $10 billion that the United Nations says
is needed to finance global AIDS programs.

He said that America should increase its spending by nearly $2
billion, which would amount to "less than two months of the Afghan
war, less than 3 percent of the requested increase of defense and
homeland security budgets.''

Earlier, Clinton expressed remorse about not having done more while he
was president to fight the epidemic, apologizing for not supporting
needle exchange programs for drug abusers. "Do I wish I could have
done more? Yes, but I do not know that I could have done it,'' he said
in an interview with The New York Times. Mandela, who had tuberculosis
while he was imprisoned during the apartheid era, noted that AIDS is
claiming more victims "than all wars and natural disasters.''

"AIDS is a war against humanity ... this is a war that requires the
mobilization of entire populations.''

He called for access to HIV-fighting drugs "for all those that need
it, wherever they may be in the world, regardless of whether they can
afford it.''

As the largest ever gathering of fighters in the battle against AIDS
drew to a close, experts said more determination and more money must
be devoted to the worldwide war against the epidemic if the heartless
march of HIV across the globe is to be thwarted.

Issues that dominated the weeklong gathering, which drew 15,000
people, included the need to get drugs to more people, the plight of
women in HIV-ravaged nations and a honing in on how much the efforts
will cost over the next decade.

Experts say that rich nations need to donate $10 billion a year.
Current spending stands at about $2.8 billion. As always, the call for
more money to finance work in the developing world was a major focus.

Nobody wrote a fat check. But the German government pledged another
$50 million to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
on the last day of the conference. The next such gathering is set for
Thailand in 2004

Seth Berkley, president of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative,
called the Barcelona conference "a splash of cold water'' on how the
world is doing in the fight against AIDS.

Expectations that there would be widespread access to anti-AIDS drugs
in poor countries were shattered by a U.N. report, released the week
before the conference, saying only 30,000 people were taking the drugs
in sub-Saharan Africa, Berkley said.

In the developing world as a whole, less than 1 percent of people
infected with the AIDS virus are receiving drug treatment, according
to a recent World Health Organization report.

African doctors said one of the issues not discussed at the conference
was that in many cases, HIV patients resell their drugs to villagers
to get money for food and that the buyers do not know how to take the
medicines properly.

On the science side, favorable results with a new type of drug was
good news for patients whose infections have become resistant to all
current treatments -- offering lifesaving treatment for those who have
run out of options.

However, concerns were raised by a report of an American HIV patient
who had become infected again with a similar strain of the virus,
causing a superinfection -- untouched by all the drugs.

There were also new findings making it even more unlikely that it will
ever be possible to eradicate the virus from the body once it has invaded.

There is still no cure and no preventive vaccine on the

"That makes the case for prevention stronger than ever,'' said Dr.
Ronald Valdiserri, deputy HIV chief at the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. "We have to be careful not to let prevention
be overshadowed by the significant treatment issues.

"Lets reinvigorate our efforts and approach this epidemic the way we
did in the 1980s and 1990s, where we did see a tremendous change in
behavior and decreases in transmission,'' Valdiserri said.

New statistics revealed how the epidemic is evolving globally --
experts predicted increasing numbers of AIDS orphans, a rising
proportion of new infections in young people and a shift toward a
majority of infections occurring in young women.

Note: Does not publishing letters from outside of the
immediate Georgia and South Carolina circulation area
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek