U.N. General Assembly Opens Special Session on HIV/AIDS
The U.N. General Assembly today will begin its special session in New York to address HIV/AIDS, marking the first time that the group of 189 nations has "focused on a single disease," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. During the three-day meeting, U.N. officials hope to "galvanize political support" for efforts to fight the disease, "accelerate" efforts to prevent and treat HIV infection in the developing world and raise billions of additional dollars to combat AIDS in "impoverished" sub-Saharan Africa, where 70% of the world's 36 million people with HIV reside (Collins, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/24). The Los Angeles Times reports that the conference "caps a series of recent, meaningful shifts indicating that the campaign against the disease is moving forward at a pace long hoped for" by AIDS activists (Farley, Los Angeles Times, 6/24). "For the first time, political leaders from all over the world are recognizing that AIDS is a crisis and we've got to do something," Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, said (Collins, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/24). He added, "We know what works, we know what we have to do and the biggest job now is to get resources to get the job done." However, U.N. delegates have "struggled" over proposed language for the Declaration of Commitment, which outlines "goals and targets" for nations to combat AIDS (Wren, New York Times, 6/24). Several Muslim nations, for example, have objected to language about homosexuality, intravenous drug use and women's rights. In addition, delegates have drawn "strong battle lines" over whether the United Nations should highlight prevention or treatment of the disease. Delegates will debate the declaration during the conference and hope to issue a final version by Wednesday.
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U.N. delegates also hope to build a "war chest big enough" to fund the fight against AIDS worldwide. According to a UNAIDS report released Thursday, an "effective" HIV prevention, treatment and care program for developing nations would cost $9.2 billion by 2005, but philanthropy groups, governments and insurers today spend only $1.8 billion on the effort. In addition, the Global AIDS and Health Fund, which has about $525 million, has fallen "far short" of efforts to raise $7 billion to $10 billion from western nations, philanthropy groups and corporations (Collins, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/24).