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DAVOS - Fight against AIDS needs much more money-aid groups

By Lucas van Grinsven, Reuters

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The fight against AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis may be at risk if billions of dollars needed to fight the killer scourges are not raised quickly, aid organisations said on Saturday.

"We need $1.6 billion in 2004, and we're close to that. But in 2005 we need $3.6 billion and by 2007 and 2008 we need to be at a cruising altitude of $7 to $8 billion a year. These numbers are well above current thinking," Richard Feacham, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said at the World Economic Forum.

Six million AIDS victims in developing countries need immediate anti-retroviral treatment, according to the World Health Organisation, but at the moment only 300,000 get it.

U.S. Health Secretary Tommy Thompson, who emphasised that his country had committed to invest $3 billion a year in the battle against AIDS, said corporations should do more to prevent the disease and treat the ill.

"In the last couple of years we've had SARS, smallpox, monkey pox, avian flu. These diseases have had a tremendous impact on all corporations," he said. Health should also play a more central role in international relations, he added.

"Three million people died of AIDS in the past year, and what's worse is that five million people have come down with HIV/AIDS. This problem is not going to go away unless we come together and do our part," he said.

HIV, the virus which attacks the body's immune system, can take years before it it develops into full-blown AIDS which kills its victim. The life expectancy of a female baby in some African nations has dropped to around 30 years, due to AIDS.

Bill Gates, the co-founder of software firm Microsoft who is giving billions of his personal wealth to health care in poor nations, said there was a risk that the disease could spread in countries with large populations such as India.


President Joaquim Alberto Chissano of Mozambique said the fight against AIDS and malaria and tuberculosis were closely related, because people infected by HIV had a much bigger risk of dying of malaria and tuberculosis.

Richard Burzynski, executive director of the International Council of AIDS service organisations said he was doubtful that the money that had been promised would really be delivered.

"You bet I have doubts. All governments have made promises, but we're not even meeting the targets set three years ago," he said. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in September that the world was way behind goals to fight AIDS.

Feacham urged the European Union (EU) to open up sleeping development funds, while Burzynski said both the United States and the EU should use the billions of annual agriculture subsidies which also hurt farmers in poor countries.

Cape Town's Anglican Church Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane said churches should play a more active role, providing health care and support.

"Faith-based organisations can reach out to every citizen in Africa at least once a week. Churches should set up one-stop health care centres," he said.

One of the obstacles to provide health care to AIDS victims is a poor infrastructure of nurses, doctors, hospitals or roads. Developed countries such as Britain recruit nurses in emerging economies such as the Caribbean, weakening the infrastructure in those nations further.

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