Clinton Calls For Urgent Action On AIDS

TORONTO, CANADA – The world has the tools it needs to combat the HIV-AIDS, but needs to overcome its squeamishness and act, says former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
“We know how to overcome AIDS. We know how to prevent millions of needless deaths,” he told delegates to th
e 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto on Tuesday.
“It can be done with urg
ent sustained action.”Clinton
In an hour-long address, Mr. Clinton said politicians and policy-makers need to commit more money to the cause but, more importantly, the dollars need to be spent effectively.
“Every single dollar wasted puts a life at risk.”
He called for balanced spending on prevention and treatment. In particular, he said it is necessary to get more people tested.
“Ninety per cent of those infected don’t know their status,” Mr. Clinton said, and that prevents them from getting prompt treatment, even where drugs are available.
Mr. Clinton did not hesitate to wade into some controversial areas, notably a call for public health officials to act on evidence that circumcision can sharply reduce the risks of transmission of HIV-AIDS. “If this saves lives, we have to get after it,” he said, regardless of how uncomfortable the issue might make men.
He also criticized the U.S. administration for their support of abstinence-based program, which he deemed ineffectual and spoke out in favour of harm reduction measures like needle exchange programs and safe injection sites to reduce infections among intravenous drug users.
This is notable because as President he largely opposed harm reduction measures. “I think I was wrong,” Mr. Clinton said candidly.
He also made another strong plug for investing more research dollars in developing effective microbicides.
The charismatic ex-politician, who now heads the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation, said that to dealing with HIV-AIDS requires improving the health infrastructure in the developing world, notably training more nurses.
“Empowering people to protect themselves seems elemental,” Mr. Clinton said.
Noting that he was about to turn 60, Mr. Clinton said: “I hate it, but it’s true.” After his speech, he was serenaded by delegates with a warbly version of Happy Birthday.
Stephen Lewis, United Nations special envoy for HIV-AIDS in Africa, introduced Mr. Clinton, and spoke of his work in glowing terms.
He said that most international groups in the field work with “supernatural acceleration – from inertia to paralysis” but Mr. Clinton was a man of action, who delivers programs as well as he speaks.
“What has filled my soul with admiration for the Clinton Foundation is their belief that in the battle against the virus, every minute lost is a life lost. That quality of urgently is desperately needed,” Mr. Lewis said.
Mr. Clinton lavished praise on the Canadian icon, calling him the conscience of the world on HIV-AIDS and telling Mr. Lewis: “The world is in your debt.”
from The Globe And Mail

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