Africa seeks AIDS war chest
ABUJA, Nigeria -- African leaders declared a state of emergency over AIDS as they wrapped up a two-day summit.
As well as pledging the creation of regulations to reduce the cost of treatment, the Abuja Declaration urged developed countries to help fight the disease by donating 0.7 percent of their gross national product.
But the assembled representatives of 43 nations diluted a proposal for each country to put 15 percent of their budgets towards battling HIV/AIDS and related diseases.
Instead they agreed to put the funds towards the overall improvement of their health sectors.
Africa accounts for over 70 percent of the 36 million people infected with AIDS worldwide.
With few exceptions, African leaders have been criticised for not taking a more pro-active stance in dealing with the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Conservative African culture, homophobia, and a lack of resources are among the reasons frequently cited, and the price of anti-retroviral drugs remains way beyond the capacity of most Africans.
"For some time we seem to be unsure and uncertain what to do about HIV/AIDS," the summit's chairman, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, told the 15 heads of state and senior government officials in the Nigerian capital.
"I believe we have come to an end of that uncertainty with the end of this summit. We are clear in our minds where to go and how to go."
The leaders supported U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's call at the opening of the conference for a global AIDS "war chest" of between $5-10 billion.
The $1 billion currently being spent to fight the disease in Africa was not enough, said Annan.
Dignitaries at the opening of the summit, organised by the Organisation of African Unity, The Joint U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS, and the Nigerian government, also included former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Pictured hugging AIDS victims on live television during his visit, Clinton was praised for helping break down the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.
"I'm here because I care about Africa and I care about AIDS," he told the summit, backing Annan's call for more funding.
Just before the leaders signed the declaration, U.S. State Department representative Nancy Powell read a message on behalf of President George W. Bush's administration, committing to help Africa in its battle against AIDS.
Bush's proposed budget includes $2.5 billion for HIV/AIDS with $480 million earmarked for international assistance.
Annan issues global AIDS fund plea
Organisation of African Unity
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