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Thirteenth International AIDS Conference Kicks Off in South AfricaAired July 9, 2000 - 6:04 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: It has been a day of protests and pleas for understanding in Durban, South Africa, as the 13th annual International AIDS Conference begins. During Sunday's opening day address, South African President Thabo Mbeki defended his government's AIDS policies and the controversial view HIV may not be the sole cause. Earlier, demonstrators rallied against drug companies and the high prices they charge for life extending AIDS treatments.
Details now from CNN's Charlayne Hunter-Gault.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a spirited prelude to the official opening of the AIDS conference. Activists from all over the world demanding drug companies lower the price of HIV AIDS drugs, especially for HIV-AIDS sufferers in poor developing countries like South Africa, where it is estimated that one in five adults is HIV positive.
Some activists blame their governments for failing to take seriously the epidemic, with Winnie Mandela directly challenging South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has called for the 21st century to be the African century.
WINNIE MANDELA, ACTIVIST: We cannot proclaim this century the African century and then ignore AIDS endemic, as some political leaders are to do. To claim this century the African century is to declare war on AIDS. Comrades, let us concede that we've failed to take HIV-AIDS seriously.
HUNTER-GAULT: The divorced wife of former President Nelson Mandela also joined the debate sparked by President Mbeki's correspondents with so-called AIDS dissidents who argue that HIV doesn't cause AIDS.
MANDELA: HIV causes AIDS.
HUNTER-GAULT: ... raging for months, threatened to cast a pall over the conference here in Durban, the first ever held in a developing country. It also provoked an unprecedented statement from more than 5,000 scientists from around the world asserting unequivocally that HIV causes AIDS. President Mbeki linked HIV and AIDS, but said he believed there were other factors contributing to the collapse of immune systems of millions of Africans. He also took issue with critics, saying there was no hesitation in his government to confront the AIDS challenge. But he repeated his argument that AIDS must be dealt with in the larger context of poverty.
PRESIDENT THABO MBEKI, SOUTH AFRICA: And last I came to conclude that with a desperate and pressing need to wage a war on all fronts to guarantee and realize the human right of all of our people to good health.
HUNTER-GAULT (on camera): It wasn't what the activists had hoped for, but it was enough to keep them from disrupting the president's speech and leaving the conference on course.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault, CNN, Durban, South Africa.
BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to continue our discussion of AIDS, and our guest has been at the forefront of research into AIDS and other immune-related diseases.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is credited with important contributions to understanding how HIV works to destroy the body's defenses. Since 1984, he has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Dr. Fauci joins us from Durban, South Africa, where it's already morning now.
Dr. Fauci, good morning.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, U.S. NATL. INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Good morning.
NELSON: OK, this is the 13th world conference on AIDS, and as we know, 13th is certainly not a lucky number. To this moment, AIDS has claimed an estimated -- well, millions of lives and now effects an estimated 34 million worldwide. Do you see any signs of hope at this conference on curbing the escalating loss of life?
FAUCI: Well, the hope we see is that we are having a situation where people, health officials, scientists, physicians, health care providers from the developed and developing countries are coming together, exchanging ideas, developing collaborations and cooperations. That, to me, is the most important part of having a meeting here in South Africa, which really is now the epicenter of the epidemic. So just bringing people together so that in the future we can work better together, to me, is a major accomplishment.
NELSON: Thirteen million have died on the continent and what -- until a cure is found, what is the answer there?
FAUCI: Well, the answer right now really is unquestionably prevention. You are having an epidemic that's running rampant. If you look at the numbers, they are absolutely astounding, they are tragic. We have a situation here in South Africa where 20 percent of the adult population is infected and it is projected that one half of the 15-year-olds in this nation will ultimately die of HIV-AIDS.
So you have to prevent future infection among adults and you have to prevent infection from a mother to a child. So there are a lot of things that could be done, and we really need to start moving very quickly because the window of opportunity is really very, very short, because the escalation of cases is really extraordinary, the slope of infection in this country is astounding.
NELSON: Dr. Fauci, the World Bank is offering a $500 million program to fight AIDS. Obviously, I don't think you're going to agree that that's enough. And in fact, a United Nations official is estimating a minimum of $3 billion is going to be needed just to educate Africans on prevention. So where does the additional money come from?
FAUCI: Right -- well, see, it is a good start what the World Bank is doing, and I think if you have money that starts off like that, then you will you have developed countries putting in a substantial amount of resources, but also stimulating and galvanizing the developing host countries to also divert a substantial portion of their resources to this -- so it's not going to be one component, one agency, or what have you, that's going to do it.
You're going to have the World Bank. There are private foundations that are very anxious to put money in. We have governments from developed countries that are interested in developing collaborations and developing the infrastructure not only for prevention networks, but also ultimately, hopefully for treatment.
So the idea that we are going to need about $3 billion a year just for the prevention aspect -- and we are falling short of that -- we the global community -- I don't think we should be discouraged in that, because it is a very good start having half a billion dollars, that's, you know, going on the way toward the $3 billion you will need and that is just for prevention. When you think in terms of setting up a network for treatment, that is going to cost a lot more.
NELSON: Since many African nations are spending huge amounts of money on debt to Western countries, what role do Western countries have now in helping the African nations to alleviate the disease by helping to reduce that debt that they now owe them?
FAUCI: Well, there are several things. I mean, obviously, the question of relieving them of debt so that they can use their resources instead of paying off debts that they had accumulated over the years, they could put it for health care infrastructure.
Also, there is a lot of collaborations that are going on now between developed and developing countries where sites are being set up even right here in South Africa in order to develop prevention, vaccine networks, and ultimately treatment networks. So we are starting to see movement that we didn't see a few years ago, and it is none too soon either. NELSON: Dr. Anthony Fauci, thanks for taking the time to talk to us this morning, very early this morning in Durban, South Africa, we appreciate it.
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