AIDS Experts Urge More Protection for Women
Mandela Asks World Conference Attendees to Stamp Out Tuberculosis
By Ian Mader
Thursday, July 15, 2004; 9:47 AM
BANGKOK, Thailand -- Experts on Thursday called for urgent work on HIV-killing gels that could help protect women who can't rely on condoms, while Nelson Mandela urged governments and "every global citizen" to donate more money to fight AIDS.
With research over the past two years showing that an AIDS vaccine is still a long way off, HIV-killing gels and creams, female condoms and diaphragms that could bolster prevention in the interim have become more of a priority, experts said.
"Developing an HIV vaccine is probably one of the most difficult challenges that biomedical science is confronting," vaccine researcher Jose Esparza told a plenary session at the International AIDS Conference running through Friday.
It's the biggest gathering ever of AIDS scientists, activists, policy-makers and HIV-infected people, also drawing international dignitaries like Mandela, the former South African president.
"Donors need to substantially increase their funding. This applies not only to governments, but also the private sector and private foundations," said Mandela, who turns 86 on Sunday.
Mandela, who survived tuberculosis in prison during South Africa's apartheid era, also called for stepped-up efforts to control TB. The lung disease can be treated for as little as $10 per patient but still is the leading killer of people with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced it would contribute an additional $50 million to the U.N.-sponsored Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Set up 30 months ago, the fund faces a major funding gap.
Donors have committed a total of $3.4 billion through 2004, enough to meet its needs through the end of the year, but pledges for 2005 through 2008 are just $2 billion, far below the $3.6 billion that the fund projects it will need in 2005 alone.
The European Union's head office said Thursday it is delivering another $52 million to the fund as part of a $569 million pledge for 2002-2006.
The 25-nation EU is the second-largest contributor to the fund after the United States, which has given about $580 million so far. President Bush has proposed giving another $200 million for 2005.
On Wednesday, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Randall Tobias rejected a call by the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a $1 billion contribution in 2005, saying it has already given sufficient funds.
There have been daily protests at the conference over Bush's AIDS policies, such as his emphasis on abstinence -- rather than condoms -- in the fight against HIV. Much of Bush's foreign aid on AIDS is tied to abstinence programs.
Thursday's focus was largely on women, who comprise nearly half of the world's 38 million people living with HIV. Their infection rates in many regions are climbing much faster than men's.
With many cultures denying women the power and confidence to demand that partners wear condoms, scientists are addressing ways women can protect themselves.
© 2004 The Associated Press