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Clinton urges U.S. to back AIDS fund

ABUJA, Nigeria -- Former U.S. president Bill Clinton has urged his country to give more money to a global AIDS fund suggested by the U.N.

Speaking at the African AIDS summit in Abuja where U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced his plan, Clinton said raising $7 billion a year to fight AIDS would not be too difficult, with $1.75 billion coming from the U.S..

"That's about the same amount the U.S. government spent last year on office supplies," said Clinton, who stepped down last January after a second four-year term.

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Clinton's visit to Nigeria last August was the first by a U.S. president since Jimmy Carter in 1978.

After hugging AIDS victims on live television during his visit, Clinton was praised for helping break down the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

"I'm here because I care about Africa and I care about AIDS," he told the summit.

Africa accounts for more than 24 million of the world's 36 million AIDS cases, Clinton said, adding that the world could not afford to ignore Africa's AIDS problem.

"Last year AIDS killed more people in Africa than all the armed conflicts combined," Clinton said.

"Today it is Africa that is the epicentre of the AIDS crisis, but in a decade, unless we turn the tide, it may very well be India or China, or Russia and the other nations of the former Soviet Union where AIDS is now spreading faster than anywhere else in the world."

Clinton told the African leaders that developed countries would invest in Africa's fight against AIDS, but the African leaders, including Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, had to develop a plan.

"Those of us from the developed countries, we have to come up with the money, but everyone here has to come up with the plan," Clinton said.

Current spending on AIDS in developing countries totals around $1 billion annually.

Annan said he was aware that $7 billion sounded like a lot of money.

"But it is not at all impossible, given the amount of wealth in the world. In fact, it is little more than 1 percent of the world's annual military spending."

The global fund would fight the spread of AIDS and other infectious diseases, improve health care systems and provide research, education, testing, drug treatments and condoms, as well as care for orphans.

The money would come from governments, foundations, academics and the private sector, U.N. officials said in New York.

More than a dozen African leaders are attending the summit, organised by the Organization of African Unity and the Nigerian government.



RELATED STORIES:
African summit to tackle AIDS crisis
April 25, 2001
S. Africa AIDS case -- a hollow victory?
April 20, 2001
AIDS drug court battle dropped
April 19, 2001

RELATED SITES:
Organisation of African Unity
UNAIDS
Nigerian Government

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