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AFRO-NETS> Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Tue, 26 Jun 2001



Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Tue, 26 Jun 2001
-----------------------------------------------

* U.N. Special Session Begins With New Donations, 'Bickering' Over
  Declaration Language
* UNAIDS' Piot Receives Mandela Award
* Burkina Faso Receives $85 Million from International Donors to
  Fight AIDS
* Mining Company's Testing Efforts Hampered by Migrant Labor System
* AIDS in Africa to be 'Main Topic' of Meeting Between President Bush
  and South African President Mbeki


--
U.N. Special Session Begins With New Donations, 'Bickering' Over Dec-
laration Language

The U.N. General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS began yesterday 
in New York with a new round of donations to the Global AIDS and 
Health Fund and "[c]ultural skirmishes" over references to "vulner-
able groups" in the session's draft Declaration of Commitment to 
fighting HIV/AIDS, which "was to be the centerpiece" of the confer-
ence, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The conference opened with 
new contributions to the proposed fund, which is estimated to need 
between $7 billion and $10 billion annually to fight HIV/AIDS in the 
developing world. Canada announced a $73 million donation, while Nor-
way said it will contribute $110 million and the United Kingdom in-
creased its donation to $200 million. Uganda, expected to be a re-
cipient nation, also donated $2 million from its national budget to 
the fund. The new donations bring the total to $815 million, and ad-
ditional donations are expected to be announced at next month's G8 
meeting in Italy. Addressing the assembly yesterday, U.S. Secretary 
of State Colin Powell said that the United States will augment the 
$200 million in "seed money" it has already pledged to the fund with 
future contributions (Collins, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/26). Powell, 
the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said he "know[s] of 
no enemy in war more insidious or vicious than AIDS, an enemy which 
poses a clear and present danger to the world," adding that the U.S. 
government will increase its contribution "as we learn where our sup-
port can be most effective." Former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro 
Mori also said his nation will make a "substantial" donation to the 
fund, but did not elaborate on how much the government would provide 
(Zimmerman/Harris, Wall Street Journal, 6/26). 

'Rhetoric to Reality'

The influx of money to the fund means that the United Nations, which 
has a history of taking "largely symbolic actions," may actually 
"turn rhetoric into reality" by raising enough money to "mount effec-
tive prevention, treatment and care programs" in developing nations 
affected by HIV/AIDS, the Inquirer reports. Julia Cleves, UNAIDS pol-
icy chief, called the donations "encourag[ing]" and said that the 
fund could be operational by Jan. 1, 2002. Details of the fund's op-
eration, including how much will be devoted to treatment versus pre-
vention and how recipient nations will he held "accountable for 
proper spending," will be ironed out over the coming months, she 
added (Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/26). Meanwhile, British Secretary of 
State for International Development Clare Short criticized the assem-
bly, saying, "We use up enormous energy in arguing at great length 
over texts that provide few, if any, follow-up mechanisms or assur-
ances that governments and U.N. agencies will carry forward the dec-
larations that are agreed [upon]." She added, "What we need now is 
urgent and much more effective action on a much wider scale" (Wren, 
New York Times, 6/26).

Vulnerable Groups

Objections to the acknowledgement of "high-risk groups," including 
homosexuals, sex workers and intravenous drug users, in the Declara-
tion of Commitment, the session's "blueprint" for the international 
fight against HIV/AIDS, "threatened to undermine" the conference, the 
Washington Times reports. The document, which was supposed to have 
been completed before the start of yesterday's session, remained in 
the working stage. Islamic nations and the Vatican oppose language 
that includes "homosexuals, prostitutes and intravenous drug users as 
especially vulnerable groups," saying that "singling these groups out 
for special attention violates religious sensitivities." Australian 
Ambassador Penny Wensley, who worked on the draft declaration, said, 
"Frankly, it has been a very difficult negotiation. We knew from the 
outset that we were having to deal with issues that raise profound 
sensitivities." In his opening remarks to the assembly, U.N. Secre-
tary-General Kofi Annan addressed the conflict. "We cannot deal with 
AIDS by making moral judgments, or refusing to face unpleasant facts 
-- and still less by stigmatizing those who are infected. We can only 
do it by speaking clearly and plainly about the ways that people be-
come infected and about what they can do to avoid infection. Let us 
remember that every person who is infected -- whatever the reason -- 
is a fellow human being, with human rights and human needs," he said 
(Pisik, Washington Times, 6/26). Australian officials said they would 
agree to "dump all mention" of the groups from the document. Austra-
lia's health minister said that the "backdown" was "necessary" to 
keep the agreement from being tabled. "We would prefer not to do 
this, but we do not want to risk losing the whole document. I will 
make clear in my speech that Australia is disappointed at the loss of 
recognition for these vulnerable groups," he said. Australia, Canada 
and several European Union member nations have "push[ed]" for the in-
clusion of the groups, saying that the exclusion will be seen as an 
"insult to the homosexual community, which has been a driving force" 
behind the special session (Riley, Sydney Morning Herald, 6/26). 

Human Rights Group Allowed to Participate

Islamic groups yesterday also objected to the inclusion of the Inter-
national Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Group in today's round table 
discussion on human rights. The group was accredited by the United 
Nations to participate in the discussion, but the 56-member Organiza-
tion of the Islamic Conference tried to use a procedural "no-action 
motion" to block their participation (Washington Times, 6/26). After 
more than two hours of debate, a motion to allow the group to take 
part in the talks was passed with 62 votes for, zero against and 30 
abstentions (DeYoung, Washington Post, 6/26).

Attention to Empowerment of Women Criticized

The Islamic nations also objected to the inclusion of a call for the 
"empowerment of women as a way to combat the human rights abuses that 
make women in developing countries particularly vulnerable to AIDS," 
the Inquirer reports (Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/26). Nearly half of 
the people with HIV worldwide are women, with gender inequality, es-
pecially in developing countries, playing a role in the high infec-
tion rates, NPR's "Morning Edition" reports. Deborah Zuti, a coordi-
nator for HIV/AIDS at the World Bank, said, "Most women in the world, 
specifically most women in developing countries, are totally depend-
ent on their husbands. Without tackling that problem, we shouldn't 
have expected the women to respond to our messages such as 'Just say 
no,' 'Get empowered,' 'Tell your husband.'" Zuti said that not enough 
money was spent to produce any product, such as microbicides, that 
would give women more control over protecting themselves. Dr. Akin-
yali Dara of the United Nations Population Fund added that young men 
can change their behavior if they are given a good reason. Dara said 
that "to address the issue of gender equality we have to come from 
the point of 'What do men gain from gender inequality?'" Geeta Rao 
Gupta, president of the International Center for Research on Women, 
said that AIDS is actually speeding gender equality. "Re-examination 
of existing gender norms is more likely to happen now in the face of 
this epidemic and we have experience of that, even in small, poor 
communities where norms are very entrenched, and people don't want to 
change. When you explain to them in simple terms, the links between 
vulnerability to infection and gender inequity, fathers will stand in 
line to get information for their young daughters," Gupta said (Wil-
son, "Morning Edition," NPR, 6/26). The draft declaration calls for 
greater education of women, improvments in access to reproductive 
health care, providing condoms and providing HIV-positive pregnant 
women with drugs to reduce vertical transmission rates. Delegates at 
the session also called on governments to "promot[e] and enforc[e] 
laws protecting women from sexual assault" (Corder, Canadian Associ-
ated Press, 6/26).


--
UNAIDS' Piot Receives Mandela Award

UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot yesterday received the Henry J. 
Kaiser Family Foundation's Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human 
Rights, which was presented by Annan at a ceremony in New York. 
Speaking at the presentation, KFF President Drew Altman said, "There 
has never been a more important time to recognize and support inter-
national leadership in the fight against AIDS. The current global mo-
bilization against HIV would not exist without Dr. Piot's unflagging 
efforts at UNAIDS. His extraordinary accomplishments will be measured 
in the lives and health of millions of people around the world for 
years to come" (KFF release, 6/25). Also yesterday, South African 
AIDS activist Mercy Makhalemele was honored with the Meade Bailey 
Award for her work lecturing women and young people on safe sex and 
for her lobbying efforts on behalf of AIDS patients (Mbugua, New York 
Daily News, 6/26). 


--
Burkina Faso Receives $85 Million from International Donors to Fight 
AIDS

Burkina Faso on Saturday received $85 million from international do-
nors to fund a five-year initiative to fight AIDS, Reuters reports. 
The program is designed to curb the epidemic in the country -- which 
has the second-highest infection rate in West Africa -- through pub-
lic education, increased monitoring of the disease and improved 
treatment for HIV-positive citizens. United Nations Development Pro-
gram representative Christian Lamaire said, "The progress of the ill-
ness has passed all expectations and its growth puts in doubt social 
and economic development." More than 7% of Burkina Faso's adult popu-
lation is reported to be HIV-positive (Reuters, 6/23).


--
Mining Company's Testing Efforts Hampered by Migrant Labor System

Gold mining company AngloGold Ltd. had planned to launch a trial pro-
gram offering free AIDS drugs to 1,000 of its miners and their wives 
in South Africa, but South Africa's "troubled labor system" and the 
reluctance of pharmaceutical companies to provide free drugs for the 
trial have forced the firm to "scal[e] back" its plans, the Wall 
Street Journal reports. AngloGold has revised its trial plan to in-
clude "as few as 200 miners and no more than 800," and it now "re-
mains unclear" when the trial will begin. The Journal reports that 
AngloGold is facing a "challeng[e]" in controlling HIV among its 
workforce because it employs "masses of migrant workers" who are 
separated from their families for extended periods of time and who 
often have access to "prostitution and casual sex." Although An-
gloGold has adopted some measures to minimize transmission risks 
among its workers --such as converting some single-sex hostels into 
housing for workers and their families -- such steps have been "only 
incremental," the Journal reports.

Costs of Migrant Labor

Some health experts and labor officials say that because of the con-
ditions it produces, the migrant worker system "contributes" to the 
spread of HIV. Many public health officials contend that companies 
should classify HIV as an "occupational health hazard," which would 
require companies to pay compensation to infected workers. Robert 
Cowie, a professor of medicine at the University of Calgary, also 
noted that companies should stop relying on migrant labor to furnish 
their work force. "Until you do away with migrant labor, you will 
continue to fight these problems," he said. But AngloGold CEO Robert 
Godsell stated that "it hasn't been proved that the migrant-labor 
system contributes" to the spread of HIV. "Whether migrant miners are 
more at risk than other miners is an interesting proposition that re-
quires some evidence," he said (Schoofs, Wall Street Journal, 6/26). 


--
AIDS in Africa to be 'Main Topic' of Meeting Between President Bush 
and South African President Mbeki

Although South African President Thabo Mbeki's absence at the opening 
of the U.N. General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS yesterday 
was "notable," AIDS in Africa is "the main topic" President Bush 
plans to discuss with Mbeki today in their first meeting since Bush 
was elected, the Associated Press reports. Although Mbeki has "backed 
off" questioning of the connection between HIV and AIDS, "he has not 
publicly defined a leadership role for himself" in fighting AIDS in 
South Africa, the country with the highest number of infected indi-
viduals (Ross, Associated Press, 6/26). NPR's "Morning Edition" re-
ports that today's talks will focus on bilateral relations between 
the United States and South Africa and that "expectations are low." 
Mbeki is expected to "drum up support" for increased trade and is 
"likely to see eye to eye with Bush on economic issues," but some ac-
tivists feel the agenda is "too narrow" and that Mbeki should rein-
force his country's role as a leader in the fight against AIDS and 
poverty ("Morning Edition," NPR, 6/26). Mbeki's popularity has "plum-
meted," and his presidency is "tarnished by missteps and gaffes," the 
Washington Post reports. Mbeki is no longer regarded in Africa as an 
"erudite economist" comparable to his predecessor Nelson Mandela, but 
is more often compared to former President Richard Nixon, "whose 
thick skin and grievances against enemies real and imagined led to 
his political downfall" (Jeter, Washington Post, 6/26). Princeton 
Lyman, a former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, said, "People got 
very concerned about how [Mbeki has] handled the AIDS crisis. They 
also think he is becoming too touchy about criticism and lashing back 
at his critics. They are looking for steadier hands [from] him, and I 
hope he demonstrates that on this visit" ("Morning Edition," NPR, 
6/26). 

Opportunity for Bush Administration

Hosting Mbeki is also an opportunity for the Bush administration to 
demonstrate its commitment to Africa and to the fight against AIDS. 
White House spokesperson Mary Ellen Countryman said, "South Africa is 
a very important country for us. They are a leader in the region and 
we want to show support for President Mbeki's efforts." American Uni-
versity economist George Ayittey said that Bush can take Mbeki to 
task only if Bush "acknowledges that the United States itself has a 
weak position" on fighting AIDS (Associated Press, 6/26). The Bush 
administration sees South Africa as "an anchor for its Africa pol-
icy." Timothy Bork, resident associate of the Africa Policy Initia-
tive at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that al-
though there is bilateral support for increased AIDS funding, it must 
go "hand in hand" with other goals in Africa. Bork said, "We don't 
want to be putting our resources into AIDS prevention and not be con-
cerned about what kind of conditions those people are living under. 
And certainly we know that AIDS prevention is going to be more effec-
tive in economies that are stronger and better governed" ("Morning 
Edition," NPR, 6/26).

--
The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, 
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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