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UN marks World AIDS Day with call to action
Updated: 2005-12-02 09:40

"Overturning the AIDS pandemic requires having the courage to do what is known to be effective," it said.

Currently president of the G8 as well as the EU, Britain announced a 27.5-million-pound (40.4-million-euro, 47.5-million-dollar) boost for global AIDS prevention, with 20 million pounds going to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the rest going towards the International Partnership of Microbicides.

In Washington, President George W. Bush said the United States was the "strongest partner" in fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa, where more than 25 million people now live with the disease.

Bush, who visited Africa in 2003, has won praise across the political spectrum for focusing on poverty and AIDS on the continent.

The United States "has a unique ability and special calling to fight this disease," Bush said at the White House. "We are guided by the conviction of our founding -- that the Author of Life has endowed every life with matchless value."

Critics however accuse Bush of putting the profits of giant drugs firms ahead of saving sick Africans.

UN marks World AIDS Day with call to action
Cuban dancers wait to go onstage for an event marking World AIDS day as a HIV positive patient walks past in an AIDS sanatorium outside Havana December 1, 2005.[Reuters]
Washington-based advocacy group Africa Action said the Bush administration "insists on protecting the profits of the pharmaceutical industry by using only expensive, patented drugs in its HIV/AIDS programs, instead of lower-cost generic versions that could provide treatment to three times as many people," said Africa Action Executive Director Salih Booker.

And Howard Dean, chairman of the opposition Democratic Party, charged that Bush officials blocked the introduction of generic drugs and failed to fully fund the president's own initiative.

Around the world the 18th World AIDS Day was marked with special concerts and the launch in major capitals of new awareness programmes on the HIV virus.

In China, Health Minister Gao Qiang made the government's first official plea to citizens to get tested for HIV and a prevention program was launched among the country's millions of migrant workers.

UN marks World AIDS Day with call to action
Chinese Health Minister Gao Qiang delivers a speech during the 'National Migrant Workers HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaign' ceremony to mark World AIDS Day in Beijing December 1, 2005. [Reuters]
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for safe sex to be taught to young people in India, home to more than five million people with the disease.

"You should comprehend the need to educate our young about the modes of transmission of this disease, and leading a healthy and safe sexual life is one of the commitments we must all make," Singh said.

In Argentina, the 221-foot (70-metre) obelisk in downtown Buenos Aires was sheathed in a giant pink condom to raise awareness.

More than 2.1 million people live with HIV-AIDS in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to Gladys Acosto, director of UNICEF in Guatemala.

Cuba, which has one of the lowest rates of HIV in the region -- 0.07 percent of the sexually active population -- has waged an aggressive prevention campaign, including free treatment, local production of anti-retroviral drugs and education.

The Caribbean generally has the second highest prevalance rate in the world, with 2.3 percent of the population affected, according to Acosto.

Half of all HIV/AIDS cases are reported in Africa, where outgoing Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa told his nation: "Let us not joke, AIDS is wiping us out. Day after day, parents bury their children instead of children burying their parents."

At rallies in Cape Town and Durban, South Africans lamented the stigma that still surrounds HIV/AIDS, despite the fact their nation has one of the highest rates of the disease in the world.

"Most people do not have ARVs because they are hiding their status," said Maureen Mboso, an HIV-positive mother who joined the Cape Town rally.

Although about one in seven South Africans -- 6.5 million people -- are infected with HIV, only about 80,000 are being treated with the free anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs that can halt the onset of AIDS.

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