Mandela calls for access to AIDS treatment

BARCELONA – Former president Nelson Mandela has called on government and business leaders worldwide to find ways to provide access to treatment for all people living with HIV/AIDS who need it.

In the closing address to the 14th International Conference on AIDS in Barcelona where he shared the platform with former president Bill Clinton, Mandela said all institutions, public and private, should ‘€œmake rapid and real progress’€ in accessing AIDS treatment for all who need it.

Mandela reminded the conference that six million people had died of AIDS since he closed the previous world conference on AIDS in Durban in 2000 and added that a further 70 million people would lose their lives in the next 20 years unless the world acted.

In an address that was frequently punctuated by applause from the ten thousand strong audience, Mandela emphasised the need for de-stigmatisation of HIV/AIDS and people living with the virus.

‘€œYou must not be ashamed of speaking out and telling the community ‘€˜I suffer from AIDS’€™’€¦ When you keep quiet you sign your own death warrant. The best thing is to be frank.’€

Mandela said that in a world where treatment was available and medication could return people with AIDS to good health it was unconscionable that parents should die, leaving their children as orphans.

‘€œThere is life after HIV/AIDS,’€ he said to thunderous applause.

If parents with AIDS could be enabled to live longer this would ensure that children had improved chances for survival and development.

‘€œThose few years of additional life will be the most precious for both parents and their children. It it is a reminder of the sanctity of human life,’€ he said.

In addition to his strong call for treatment and the need to offer people hope, Mandela stressed the importance of voluntary testing for HIV and knowledge of one’€™s own HIV status.

‘€œThe sooner you establish your HIV status, the more you can do for yourself,’€ he added.

Earlier in the closing ceremony, former president Clinton added his voice to the call for the world’€™s rich nations to shoulder their share of responsibility for the United Nations’€™ Global Fund on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.

‘€œWe cannot lose the war on AIDS and win our battles to reduce poverty , promote stability, advance democracy and increase peace and prosperity,’€ he said. ‘€œThat is why I said it [AIDS] was a security threat when I was President. That is why every citizen on our small planet has a personal interest in ending AIDS.

He said for the wealthy nations this meant they should determine their share of the $10 billion needed for the global fund.

‘€œWe should figure out what our share is and we should pay it.’€

Clinton added that this meant that the US contribution of US $800 million to the global fund needed to be increased by just less than two billion dollars.

This amount, he added, was ‘€œless than two months of the Afghan war and less than three percent of the requested increases for defence in the current (US) budget’€.


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