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AIDS #1 Health Threat To Kids

The United Nations Children's Fund reports AIDS is now the single biggest health threat to the world's children.

At least 10 million children are already infected.

UNICEF's annual Progress of Nations report, released Wednesday, estimates that every minute, six people under age 24 become infected. And more than 13 million uninfected children are now AIDS orphans.

Against this backdrop, the world AIDS conference in South Africa has been marked by protests over lack of prevention, affordable treatment, and the choice of South Africa -- which has the world's highest infection rate -- to host it.

In Washington, Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Wednesday the U.N. Security Council will soon approve a resolution to intensify the world's commitment to fighting AIDS.

Holbrooke says the unprecedented resolution is vital because AIDS "is so widespread and menacing it poses a threat to international stability."

CBS News Anchor Dan Rather interviewed President Clinton's AIDS policy advisor, Sandra Thurman, who is attending the conference:

Rather: Ms. Thurman, how bad is this epidemic?

Thurman: Well, quite frankly, the epidemic is out of control. We have 34 million people infected worldwide, 22.5 million of those live here in Africa and within the next decade we expect to have 40 million children orphaned by AIDS.

Rather: And to the American taxpayer who's watching and listening, who says, "Hey I'm worried about AIDS, we're doing what we can but we can't cure everything the world over, we're pretty much doing what we can," you say what?

Thurman: What we see in Africa today is just the tip of the iceberg. We know that in 15 years the center or epicenter will be in India, and then following 10 years on into the former Soviet Union, so we have a pandemic on our hands and this epidemic is truly circling the globe.

Rather: Fair or unfair to say it's the modern version of the ancient bubonic plague?

Thurman: It's absolutely fair to say. This is clearly the worst public health crisis we've seen… and if the epidemic continues to escalate at its current pace it will absolutely make that epidemic pale in comparison.

Rather: And will the several hundred million dollars that we're now spending as people as a society to try to stem this tide, is there any possible way it can do the job?

Thurman: Well, no absolutely not, a few hundred million dollars is absolutely a drop in the bucket in a pandemic this size… People don't understand that HIV and AIDS is a very real threat to people in the United States of America. If we don't continue to educate young people, if we don't continue reach out to communities most at risk, we will have a second wave of this epidemic in the United States and it will be much harder to manage than the first wave was.

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