Annan: AIDS Crisis Accelerating

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Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday warned that the AIDS epidemic is accelerating on every continent and called for more money and leadership to halt its spread by the U.N. target date of 2015.

In an opening address to representatives of 127 countries at a high-level conference, Annan said the scale of the global response to the scourge of AIDS has been significant, but insufficient because "it has not matched the epidemic in scale."

"Last year saw more new infections and more AIDS-related deaths than ever before," he said. "Indeed, HIV and AIDS expanded at an accelerating rate on every continent."

Treatment and prevention efforts also were insufficient, Annan said.

"Only 12 percent of the people in need of antiretroviral therapies in low- and middle-income countries were receiving them. And while young people — especially young women — account for more than half of all new infections, most of the world's young people still lacked meaningful access to youth-oriented prevention services," he said.

"It is now clear that the epidemic continues to outrun our efforts to contain it," he said.

The daylong conference was being held to assess progress toward meeting targets set at a U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001 to start tackling the crisis.

They include reducing HIV prevalence among men and women ages 15 to 24 by at least 25 percent by the end of 2005, providing those young people with information, education and services to protect themselves from infection, reducing the proportion of infants infected with HIV by 20 percent, and expanding treatment.

Annan said it is possible to break the cycle of new HIV infections and halt the spread of AIDS, as Brazil, Cambodia and Thailand have demonstrated with successful prevention programs. He said there are encouraging signs in the same direction in countries from the Bahamas to Cameroon, Kenya and Zambia.

But to meet the U.N. goal of halting and reversing the spread of HIV and AIDS by 2015, he said more resources are needed from traditional donors, the private sector and the most affected countries themselves. More effective planning and better and more vocal leadership also are needed at every level as well as "a real investment in the empowerment of women and girls," he said.