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The BBC's Greg Barrow
"The disease is straining the emerging economies of the region"
 real 28k

Sunday, 9 January, 2000, 22:33 GMT
Gore to launch Africa Aids initiative

Aids patient Many families in Africa have been hit by Aids


By UN correspondent Mark Devenport

US Vice-President Al Gore is to announce a major financial contribution to the fight against Aids in Africa at a special meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday.

It is the first time the security council has discussed a health issue in more than 4,000 meetings.


Al Gore Al Gore is expected to announce major funding

"The vice president will make a major statement of US policy including a major commitment of resources," said US representative to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke.

Diplomats at the UN said Mr Gore was to announce a US commitment of $200m but it was unclear whether the money would be earmarked for the fight against Aids in general or more specifically in Africa.

UN first

With more than 20 million Africans infected by HIV, the virus which leads to Aids, no-one can deny the scale of the threat the disease poses to the continent.

But the disease is normally dealt with by United Nations agencies such as the World Health Organisation or the UN Children's Fund, Unicef, whilst the UN security council concentrates on wars and political conflicts in its role as an arbiter on questions of international peace and security.

Mr Holbrooke, who is presiding over the council this month, is using the time to highlight African issues.

He argues that holding a security council debate is justified because the epidemic poses a danger to the economic and political stability of many sub-Saharan African countries and therefore has a clear implication for international security.


Richard Holbrooke Mr Holbrooke has made this Africa month for the UN Security Council
Mr Holbrooke, who recently visited Africa, says many people there do not want to know whether they are HIV positive because of the stigma still associated with the disease.

The UN estimates that 13 million of the 16 million people who have died of Aids were from Africa.

Of the 30 countries with the highest level of prevalence of Aids, all but three are in Africa.

Multinationals

The security council debate will be being chaired by Mr Gore, the first time a US vice-president has sat in the chair for a council debate.

Last year Mr Gore was targeted by Aids campaigners who accused him of siding with multinational pharmaceutical companies against the South African government in a battle over the high cost of anti-Aids drugs.

Medicines such as AZT have had a significant impact on prolonging the life expectancy of Aids patients in richer countries, but remain far too expensive for the vast majority of Aids sufferers in Africa.

A series of protests disrupted the vice-president's appearances, including a rally at which he declared his candidacy for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.


Aids funeral Aids deaths leave many African families without a breadwinner
The drug companies objected to a South African law intended to hold down the cost of anti-Aids drugs by allowing the authorities there to import medicines from countries where it was cheaper or to manufacture their own generic versions of the drugs.

The pharmaceutical industry, backed by the US federal government in Washington, claimed the law infringed international patents.

The row was defused last September when South Africa pledged to abide by World Trade Organisation rules and the United States dropped its objection to the Aids law.

Burundi and Congo

In the past the UN Security Council has been accused of being too slow to react to Africa's needs, but the Aids debate will mark the start of a month of high profile discussions about the continent's problems.

The former South African President Nelson Mandela is expected to address the council in his capacity as a mediator in the conflict in Burundi.

Then later in January the Security Council will devote a week to the uncertain peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The discussions are due to be attended by the Democratic Republic of Congo's President Laurent Kabila and other key leaders in the region.

The council has already sent a small number of military liaison officers to the area, but is reluctant to authorise what would have to be a large and expensive peacekeeping force until it is convinced there is a peace to keep.

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See also:
08 Jan 00 |  Africa
Aids becomes a security issue
01 Dec 99 |  Africa
Aids in Kenya: A social disease
01 Dec 99 |  World
UN highlights Aids orphans
24 Nov 99 |  Africa
Mixed response to Africa's Aids epidemic
15 Sep 99 |  Africa
Aids: World's 'worst undeclared war'
14 Sep 99 |  Aids
African countries list Aids priorities

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