In the News

8,000 a Day Die from Scourge of AIDS


THE United Nations has unveiled plans to rush life-saving anti-retroviralAIDS drugs to three million of the world’s poor in a Euro 5bn emergency strategy to fight a disease now killing 8,000 a day.

“The lives of millions of people are at stake. This strategy demands massive and unconventional efforts to make sure they stay alive,” World Health Organisation Director-General Lee Jong-wook said in a statement to mark World Aids Day.

“Preventing and treating AIDS may be the toughest health assignment the world hasfaced, but it is also the most urgent.”

More than 42m people are infected with HIV worldwide, of whom 26.6m live insub-Saharan Africa. The largest number of infections is in South Africa, where about five million, or one in 10, is HIV-positive. And a combination of unprotected sex, and drugabuse, is fuelling an explosion of the epidemic around the world – in India, China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia. The WHOestimates that 4.2 million people need anti-retrovirals in sub-Saharan Africa; but only 50,000 get supplies.

UN General Secretary Kofi Annan thinks many political leaders still simply do not care enough to fight the disease, which has killed 28m people since 1981.

“I feel angry, I feel distressed, I feel helpless . . . to live in a world where we have the means . . . to be able to help all these patients, what is lacking is the political will, hesaid.” Yesterday the Catholic Church, came under fire from its own ranks when a pressure group called Catholics for a Free Choice said it planned a campaign saying “Good Catholics Use Condoms”. The Vatican supported a claim in October, that said condoms had tiny holes which allowed the virus to pass through.

This article first appeared in the 1 December 2003 edition of the Irish Independent.

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