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Page last updated at 11:22 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 12:22 UK

Health systems 'impede' HIV fight

Bill Clinton greets a crowd in Monrovia, Liberia, 3 August 2008
Bill Clinton has been visiting his foundation's projects in Africa

Former US President Bill Clinton has said that improving health services is the main challenge to fighting HIV/Aids in Africa, not a lack of money.

In a BBC interview, Mr Clinton said his foundation had therefore been focusing more and more on cost-effective ways to improve national health systems.

He also said encouraging monogamy should be an important part of the fight against HIV/Aids.

Mr Clinton made the comments in Senegal at the end of a recent tour of Africa.

'Mobilising systems'

He said universal treatment could be provided on the continent, but only if health services were improved.

We don't have the health care systems to reach out to people
Bill Clinton

"That's increasingly in the last few years what our foundation has been focused on - what is the most cost-effective way to mobilise a national health system," Mr Clinton said.

"You can get the universal treatment - the money's there now, if we spend it most effectively."

"But we don't have the health care systems to reach out to people, get them tested and diagnosed in a timely fashion, get them on treatment and do the regular follow-ups."

Mr Clinton also said male circumcision had proved an effective way of lowering HIV infections, and that it was "very important" to change peoples' attitudes in favour of more monogamy - though he noted that this was not just a problem in Africa.

"To pretend we can ever get a hold of this without dealing with that, the idea of unprotected sexual relations with unlimited numbers of partners, I think would be naive," he said.

Following his trip to Africa Mr Clinton has been attending a world health conference in Mexico, where he called for a 50% increase in funding to keep pace with expanding HIV drug programmes.

Delegates at the conference are not expecting any breakthrough announcement concerning new drugs or the search for a preventative vaccine.

But details of trials for a vaccine that could reduce the need for full-time treatment for HIV/Aids patients have been announced.

Dr Barry Peters told the BBC it was hoped the vaccine could boost the immune system and allow patients several years off anti-retroviral drugs - which can cause side-effects.

"If the results go as we want then maybe within three years we'll have a new form of treatment," he said.


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