Via Xinhua: Global AIDS conference kicks off amid U.S. lag in combating pandemic. Excerpt:
The 19th International AIDS conference kicked off Sunday amid a U.S. lag in reducing new HIV infections, the condition that has led to 35 million deaths worldwide.
More than 20,000 activists and researchers gathered for a week-long conference in Washington DC -- the first in the United States in two decades. Across the globe, the disease has struck young people in particular, killing many in the prime of their lives, creating multitudes of orphans and ravaging economies.
"Our return to the United States after a 22-year absence comes at a time of extraordinary hope, a time when we believe that the end of the AIDS epidemic is possible," said Elly Katabira, International Chair of AIDS 2012 and President of the International AIDS Society, in the opening session.
"There is no doubt, that our progress over the past 30 years has been impressive, but maintaining the status quo is simply not enough," said Diane Havlir, U.S. Co-Chair of AIDS 2012 and Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
"My message to policy makers around the entire world watching us here in D.C. is this -- invest in science, invest in the epidemic -- you will change lives."
In his address to the opening session through video, UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon said one year ago, the UN General Assembly set ambitious targets for 2015 -- to cut new infections by half, put 15 million people on treatment and ensure no child was born with HIV.
"We can achieve this target if we refocus, re-energize our mission, and invest more resources and also share experiences and take the next steps together," said Ban. "I'll support you. I'll continue to advocate for universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support. I'll continue to press the drug industry for access to affordable life-saving medicines. I'll continue to ask nations to respect and protect the rights of all those living with HIV."
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim also addressed the conference, the first time that a President of the Group has addressed the International AIDS Conference.
"I'm here to bring you both a pledge and a challenge," said Kim. "I pledge that the World Bank will work tirelessly with all of you here to drive the AIDS fight forward until we win. And I challenge you to join me in harnessing the moral power and practical lessons that the AIDS movement has produced to speed progress against that other global scourge, poverty."
After a quarter century of grappling with the disease, many countries have made significant strides toward slashing new cases -- including many in hard-hit sub-Saharan Africa.
However, the U.S. rate of new infections has remained unchanged at around 50,000 since the 1990s.
Indeed, a recent GlobalPost series on the issue found that Washington, the nation's capital, has a higher AIDS rate than five sub-Saharan African countries that received significant help to combat the disease under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR.
Thirty-four million people worldwide are HIV positive, including 1.2 million in the U.S.