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Fighting AIDS No Less Important Than Fighting Terrorism: UN Official

At the opening of an international AIDS conference in Nairobi Sunday, a UN special envoy raised a question that why war on terrorism can get enough fund while war on AIDS can not.

"How can this be happening, in the year 2002, when we can find over US$200 billion to fight a war on terrorism, but we can't find the money to prevent children from living in terror?" said Stephen Lewis, the UN secretary-general's special envoy for AIDS in Africa, in his speech at the opening of the 13th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA).

"I choose to focus on orphaned children because they remain perhaps the most intractable of all issues related to care and support," said the envoy.

Despite increased political attention, Africa's AIDS fight remains only half funded, according to a report issued Sunday hereby the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

According to UNAIDS estimates, about US$950 million was spent to fight HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa in 2002.

While this figure represents an increase of US$400 million since 2000, it is still only half of the US$2 billion that was needed in 2002 for basic prevention and treatment services.

By 2005, it is estimated that US$5 billion will be needed for basic services, and an additional US$1 billion will be required to provide antiretroviral treatment to 2.5 million Africans living with HIV/AIDS.

Africa is home to only 10 percent of the world's population and yet more than 70 percent of the people infected with HIV/AIDS worldwide live in Africa.

At least 60 million Africans have been directly impacted by AIDS: 30 million people are living with the deadly virus, more than 15 million have died from it, and more than 11 million have lost at least one parent to the epidemic.

About 6,000 participants from across Africa and other parts of the world have gathered in Nairobi to assess the continent's war on HIV/AIDS at the 13th ICASA.

(Xinhua News Agency September 22, 2003)

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