Aids alarm as world losing fight


HIV/Aids is spreading at an alarming rate and current efforts to fight the pandemic are "wholly insufficient," UN officials said yesterday. In a series of reports, statements and speeches, the officials, led by UN chief Kofi Annan, sounded a clarion call for the international community to redouble its commitment to battling the deadly disease.

"We have come a long way, but not far enough," Annan said in an address to the UN General Assembly marking the two-year anniversary of a special session called to combat the edisease.

At that meeting, the world body set a goal of $10 billion (BD3.78bn) to be raised by 2005 to fight Aids but at the moment less than half of that amount has been collected.

Meanwhile, the disease continues to run rampant, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where some 29.4 million people are living with HIV/Aids.

And of the 42 million people worldwide who have the infection that causes Aids, some six million in developing countries desperately need antiretroviral treatment, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

"Clearly, we will have to work harder to ensure that our commitment to the fight against Aids is matched by the necessary resources and action," Annan said.

His comments were echoed by other UN officials in increasingly dire pronouncements about the state of the fight against HIV/Aids.

"Business as usual will not work," said WHO director general Jong Wook Lee. "Business as usual means watching thousands of people die every single day." "To deliver antiretroviral treatment to the millions who need it, we must change the way we think and change the way we act," he said, calling for the battle to be fought with the same urgency as the Iraq crisis and the deadly Sars outbreak.

Meanwhile, Bill Gates, the world's richest man, said that Aids pandemic was nearly invisible in the West, in an appearance here alongside South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela.

"People (in the West) don't get exposure to these problems. If maybe it was in a neighbouring country, the humanitarian instincts of the rich world would have reacted," the Microsoft tycoon told a youth forum.

Mandela said young people needed to become militant in fighting the pandemic, which has infected nearly 30 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and has left some 11 million orphans on the continent, according to UN figures.

"The fight against Aids will indeed require another social revolution," he said.

"Once more the youth of our country are called upon to play a leading role in a social revolution, as they did so heroically in the revolutionary struggle against apartheid." Gates and Mandela were participating in a group discussion with South African teenagers yesterday on the role of young people in fighting Aids in one of the world's most-affected countries.

They were accompanied by their wives, Melinda Gates and Mozambique's former first lady Graca Machel.