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AFRO-NETS> Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Fri, 18 May 2001

Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Fri, 18 May 2001

* IAVI, Yahoo! Team Up to Mobilize Support
* Vaccine Awareness Day Events and Volunteer Information
* Swaziland's Queen, Health Minister Visit L.A. HIV/AIDS Clinic Seek-
  ing Support, Treatment Ideas
* Annan, Piot Call for Leadership in Fight Against AIDS at World 
  Health Assembly; Potential Donor Countries Raise Concerns About 
  Global Fund
* 'NewsHour' Examines Senegal's Successes in Fighting AIDS Despite 
  Low Income, Poor Education

IAVI, Yahoo! Team Up to Mobilize Support

In an effort to mobilize international support for the development of 
an HIV/AIDS vaccine, IAVI and Yahoo! are launching today a global 
online campaign "consisting of a series of four banner ads [on Ya-] linked to IAVI advocacy splash pages." Yahoo! became the 
first major corporate sponsor of IAVI in January when the company 
pledged $5 million over three years to the initiative. Dr. Seth 
Berkeley, president and CEO of IAVI, said, "While a preventive vac-
cine for AIDS offers the best hope of ending the pandemic, a broad-
based global movement is necessary to help overcome the scientific, 
political and economic challenges that lie ahead." Visitors to the 
IAVI Web site can sign a Global Call for Action to be presented at 
the June U.N. General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS in New 
York, volunteer for ongoing clinical trials and learn more about 
IAVI's efforts to "accelerate development and delivery of a preven-
tive AIDS vaccine for the world" (IAVI release, 5/18).

Vaccine Awareness Day Events and Volunteer Information

The HIV Vaccines Trials Network, an organization of international 
scientists devoted to HIV vaccine development based at Seattle's Fred 
Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, will today host a "variety" of ac-
tivities designed to "raise awareness" about HIV vaccine trials at 
sites across the United States and in other countries. For informa-
tion on today's activities or how to enroll in HIV vaccine studies 
call the AIDS Clinical Trials Information Service at 1-800-243-7012 
or log on to (HVTN release, 5/15).

Swaziland's Queen, Health Minister Visit L.A. HIV/AIDS Clinic Seeking 
Support, Treatment Ideas

Queen LaMagwazarage of Swaziland, accompanied by Health Minister Dr. 
Philetse Dalamini, visited the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, 
Los Angeles County, Calif.'s largest AIDS center, Wednesday on a par-
tial "fact-finding mission" and partial "rally" in search of support 
for their nation's efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, which has so far in-
fected a third of their population, the Los Angeles Times reports. 
Bud Chiles, vice president of HOPEworldwide in Africa, called the 
visit "very proactive" and added that it may indicate a "change in 
the way African nations are choosing to combat the epidemic." During 
the visit, officials "highlighted the dramatic challenges" faced by 
their country, including limited access to the rural population and a 
small budget to fight HIV/AIDS. Currently, the government spends $2 
million of its $30 million annual health budget on HIV/AIDS. Most of 
that money is directed toward education and prevention efforts. The 
high cost of medications has prohibited the government from treating 
patients. "Sometimes we know what to do but we can't do it because we 
don't have the resources," Dalamini explained. Officials are "urging" 
other governments to join them in "lobby[ing]" pharmaceutical compa-
nies to lower prices. King Mswati III, who did not to accompany the 
queen, has voiced "frustration" about the "disparity" in the amount 
of AIDS funding that developing nations, which have been most af-
fected by the disease, receive versus the amount that goes toward 
HIV/AIDS efforts in developed nations. He began a fundraising cam-
paign in January, utilizing charity events and sales of a compilation 
CD featuring Elton John and Destiny's Child, to triple Swaziland's 
health budget and provide funds to other African countries (Rhone, 
Los Angeles Times, 5/17).

Annan, Piot Call for Leadership in Fight Against AIDS at World Health 
Assembly; Potential Donor Countries Raise Concerns About Global Fund

Speaking yesterday before the World Health Organization's 191 member 
states convened in Geneva this week for the annual World Health As-
sembly, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that in order to en-
courage progress in developing countries, the spread of HIV/AIDS and 
other diseases must be stemmed. "[T]he devastation wrought by 
HIV/AIDS is now so acute that it has itself become one of the main 
obstacles to development," he said. Emphasizing the need for global 
action against the disease, he added, "AIDS has become the primary 
cause of death in Africa. But let no one imagine it is only an Afri-
can problem." To combat HIV/AIDS, Annan called for "leadership at 
every level, from the family through local communities to national 
governments and international institutions," adding that the "United 
Nations can achieve little by itself. Our leadership is only useful 
to the extent that others respond to our call." He indicated that 
plans for the Global AIDS Fund he created last month are progressing, 
stating that it should be run by an independent board composed of do-
nor and developing nations, non-governmental organizations, private 
firms and the United Nations. "The broad policies would be set by the 
board, which would use [donor] money to support national programs and 
strategies, decided by national leaders. But it would insist on 
transparency and accountability, so that we can be sure the money is 
being spent in ways that are effective, and is reaching the people 
who need it most." Annan concluded, "Let us rise above the turf bat-
tles and doctrinal disputes. The battle against HIV/AIDS is too im-
portant for us to risk side-tracking it by championing one institu-
tion or project at the expense of others" (Annan speech text, 5/17). 
UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot followed Annan's speech at the 
meeting, saying, "[W]e now do have a clear agenda. ... It is an ambi-
tious agenda, which also captures the complexity of the response, 
based on experience and solid evidence. ... [W]e have to embark on 
emergency type action, while at the same time building capacity for 
the long term. Defeating AIDS requires sustained behavior change, 
from every individual, every institution and within every relation-
ship" (Piot speech text, 5/17). 

Least Developed Countries Must Also Be Aware

Piot also spoke at the U.N. Conference on the Least Developed Coun-
tries in Brussels on Wednesday, warning LDCs that although the inci-
dence of HIV/AIDS may be low in their regions, this is "not an excuse 
for inaction," as the epidemic is only beginning to spread. Piot 
pointed out that women and children are at particular risk for HIV in 
LDCs, and that the impacts of the virus across all of society are 
"becoming apparent." He called on these nations to invest early in 
preventing the spread of disease, saying that the countries with the 
lowest infection rates are "facing the greatest opportunities for ac-
tion against HIV, at the lowest cost. ... It is the reason to invest 
wisely in prevention" (UNAIDS release, 5/16). 

Donorless Fund?

Despite calls from Annan and Piot for leadership in fighting 
HIV/AIDS, developed nations at the conference on poverty "remained 
skeptical" about donating money to the U.N. global fund, saying that 
there were "not enough guarantees" that the money would be used "cor-
rectly," the Associated Press reports. "What will this fund do better 
than what we are doing now?" European Union Development Commissioner 
Poul Nielson asked, adding, "If we are just talking about a global 
AIDS fund, we will not participate. It is too narrow." Although an 
agreement on the establishment of and donations to the fund was ex-
pected at the conference, several "wealthy" nations asked the United 
Nations to "go back to the drawing board to redraw its proposal." The 
European Union, one of the dissenting delegations, asked that the 
fund include other diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria and in-
clude provisions for providing cheap drugs in developing countries. 
The United States became the first "large donor" to the fund last 
Friday, when President Bush pledged $200 million (Brand, Associated 
Press, 5/16).   

'NewsHour' Examines Senegal's Successes in Fighting AIDS Despite Low 
Income, Poor Education

Even though Senegal has "low income, high illiteracy and some tradi-
tional customs that can spread the AIDS virus," the conservative, 
mostly Islamic country has a relatively low HIV infection rate of 
1.4%, compared to the 30% rates in many other African nations, corre-
spondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports in the fourth part of the "News-
Hour with Jim Lehrer" series on AIDS in Africa. Part of the reason 
for the nation's success in dealing with AIDS is that it has targeted 
the commercial sex trade. Even before AIDS arrived in Senegal, the 
nation required prostitutes to register with clinics and then return 
for regular medical checkups. Among prostitutes, the HIV infection 
rate is 15%, a rate that has remained steady since the early 1990s. 
However, the system is not "foolproof," and there are an unknown num-
ber of unregistered sex workers, especially in rural areas. Other 
people point to the nation's religion as a reason why HIV has not 
spread as widely in Senegal as it has in other areas of the world. 
Islam "prohibits sexual deviance" and even though it permits polyg-
amy, it requires all spouses to be faithful. In addition, Islamic 
leaders acknowledge the "threat of HIV" from the pulpit and joined 
the government to declare AIDS a "national priority." Because of 
their efforts, "ordinary Sengalese ... have been bombarded by AIDS 
awareness campaigns."

Worries Still Remain

Even with a relatively low infection rate, some experts are concerned 
about the spread of HIV in rural areas, where more than half of the 
population lives. Sengalese living in rural areas are "less likely 
than their urban counterparts to talk frankly about sex, and they 
have more economic hardships and fewer resources." There, "AIDS seems 
like a distant problem." Further, men "fit into a classic high-risk 
group for HIV in Africa" -- because they travel for extended periods 
in search of work, they are "prime customers for the commercial sex 
industry." Public health workers worry that "most people in Senegal 
have never personally met anyone with AIDS" and "worry about the po-
tential for complacency," but those are concerns that "most parts of 
Africa, overwhelmed by AIDS, would gladly trade" (de Sam Lazaro, 
"NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 5/17). 

The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for, 
a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, by National 
Journal Group Inc. c 2001 by National Journal Group Inc. and Kaiser 
Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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