Governments across the globe pledged Monday to step up the fight against HIV, combating the stigma associated with the disease and promising to bankroll treatment programmes on World Aids Day.
US President George W. Bush was to announce his administration had
already met its goal of treating two million people living with
HIV/Aids by the end of the year, while his Chinese counterpart Hu
Jintao visited patients with the virus as part of a government effort
to fight discrimination.
In South Africa, the country with the highest number of sufferers in
the world, the government was mapping out its AIDS strategy under a new
health minister as part of a sea-change in attitudes from the ANC
South Africans held a moment of silence at midday as a
mark of respect for victims of the virus which has affected some 5.5
Men urged to get tested
Speaking at a ceremony in Durban, newly-appointed Health Minister Barbara Hogan urged men to overcome
their traditional reluctance and voluntarily test for HIV.
"We encourage all men, I repeat all men, to test themselves for HIV
to protect themselves and the people they love," Hogan said.
"We all know that together we shall overcome," she said.
In Johannesburg, the celebrated Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo also
called for reducing the stigma still attached to the disease.
"HIV-Aids has become a huge issue for my continent and the fight
against it must be relentless and determined," Kidjo told AFP.
"There is a need in Africa to educate people on the killer
diseases and ailments such as AIDS, malaria, dysentery, cholera," said
Kidjo, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador.
"It is pleasing to note that treatment for these diseases is
becoming more accessible to people," said Kidjo.
Kidjo, who performed in South Africa on Saturday, is travelling to
Dakar later Monday for a two-day musical campaign aimed at reducing the
stigma of Aids.
Stripping away stigma
Hu's visit to a hospital in Beijing was also designed to strip away
some of the stigma attached to the virus, following the launch on
Sunday of a campaign being conducted with the United Nations to raise
awareness about HIV/Aids.
"Stigma and discrimination are major obstacles in an effective
response to Aids," said Health Minister Chen Zhu at the launch of the
campaign at the Bird's Nest Olympic stadium.
"We need to engage all sectors of society in China to combat these
issues and work to stop the disease."
China has about 700 000 people who are HIV-positive, according to a
previously released estimate by the Chinese government and UN health
However only about 260 000 have been officially identified as having
Meanwhile in Washington, the White House said that Bush's emergency
plan for AIDS relief (PEPFAR) had now supported life-saving
antiretroviral treatment for over 2.1 million men, women and children
living with HIV/AIDS around the world, including more than two million
people in Sub Saharan Africa.
The programme provides funding for HIV/Aids, malaria and
tuberculosis treatment in 15 focus countries among the world's poorest,
mainly in Africa.
"PEPFAR is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single
disease in human history," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in
a statement. – (Sapa-AFP)