Aids summit falls short on fund goals

A major UN meeting on Aids strategy stopped short of concrete financial commitments but recognised the spread of the disease among women and their right to protect themselves.

    A three-day UN meeting finished on Friday

    Friday's session, the last day of a three-day meeting, brought together heads of state, prime ministers and health officials from 151 countries to discuss how to care for 40 million infected people over the next decade.

    Twenty-five million people have died of Aids since 1981, and 8,000 die each day of the disease, although the rate of new cases has slowed.

    The final declaration, many activists said, was more positive than they had predicted. Muslim countries, including Iraq, Egypt and Pakistan, had resisted commitments on the rights of women or girls.

    Still, about 70 groups among the 800 attending denounced the declaration as "pathetically weak" on financing and rights for girls under 18, many of them in forced marriages.

    Jan Eliasson said the UN draft was

    "I know that none of you got all that you wanted in this declaration," UN General Assembly President Jan Eliasson said in closing the session. But he said that because of the advocacy groups, "the draft got stronger, not weaker."

    Although the declaration is non-binding, it serves as a basis for programmes from governments, private groups and business.

    The document says $23 billion will be needed annually by 2010 to fight Aids; $8.3 billion was spent in 2005. Nations agreed to search for additional resources to ensure universal access to treatment by 2010.

    But delegations did not commit themselves to a timetable for raising the funds as they did in 2001, when the financial target was met.


    The United States led those objecting to financial goals, although Washington, the largest spender on Aids in the developing world, has set its own targets.

    Squeamishness over sex was evident this year as in 2001, with Islamic groups and conservative Roman Catholic countries using the term "vulnerable groups" rather than referring to prostitutes, homosexuals and drug addicts.

    "Leadership means finding ways to reach out to all groups - whether young people, sex workers, injecting drug users or men who have sex with men," the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, said.

    'Telling the truth'

    Hilary Benn, Britain's international development secretary, told the conference: "I wish we could have been a bit more frank in our document about telling the truth."

    "Abstinence is fine for those who are able to abstain, but human beings like to have sex, and they should not die because they do have sex," he said.

    The document, in addition to abstinence, advocated condoms, "harm reduction" efforts related to drug use - a euphemism for needle exchange programmes for addicts - and sex education.

    "It seems that the world governments -- including the most conservative countries -- have finally woken up to the fact that young people must have access to comprehensive sex education," said Adrienne Germain, president of the International Women's Health Coalition.

    The three-day meeting is timed around the 25th anniversary of the first documented Aids cases on June 5, 1981.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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