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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 July, 2004, 13:55 GMT 14:55 UK
UN head urges action against Aids
Aids patient in Bangkok, Thailand
Annan says the Aids crisis in Asia has reached a 'turning point'
The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has warned the international community it is not doing enough to fight Aids.

Speaking at the opening of the 15th international Aids conference in Bangkok, Mr Annan said leadership was the key to defeating Aids.

Mr Annan highlighted the plight of women, who are increasingly bearing the brunt of new infections.

Calling it a "terrifying pattern," Mr Annan said women now account for nearly half of all adult infections.

In sub-Saharan Africa that figure is as high as 58%, he said.

"And yet, one third of all countries still have no policies to ensure that women have access to prevention and care," Mr Annan told the conference in the Thai capital.

40m people with HIV worldwide
30m HIV sufferers in developing world
400,000 HIV sufferers in poorer countries receiving anti-Aids drugs

The UN chief said poverty, violence and abuse were putting women at risk.

"This can only be prevented by empowering women and girls to protect themselves against the virus," he said.

"In other words, what is needed is the education of girls."

Mr Annan said there had been progress since world leaders pledged three years ago to tackle HIV/Aids.

"And yet, we are not doing nearly well enough," he said.

Several hundred activists demonstrated outside the conference centre as delegates arrived, demanding greater availability of cheap drugs for poorer countries.

Opening the conference, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced a donation of $5m over five years to fight Aids. He also urged governments around the world to provide antiretroviral drugs to the needy.

Earlier Mr Annan warned of dire economic consequences in the Asia-Pacific region unless leaders acted decisively to tackle Aids.

"Here in Asia, HIV/Aids is at a turning point," he said. "How you will address this challenge, will impact on the very future of the region.

One in four of the new infections last year were in Asia, Mr Annan said.

And he warned that the region's leaders had only three years to stop the crisis turning into something worse even than that experienced in Africa.

Infection rates in Asia are still much lower than in sub-Saharan Africa, but the huge populations in countries like India and China mean that even low rates produce large numbers of infected people.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao acknowledged on Saturday that Aids has reached every level of society in China.

Missed targets

A report by the UN-launched Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria has meanwhile said that one-fifth of its initial projects failed to meet targets and are unlikely to receive further support.

The Global Fund's analysis of 25 projects, costing about $160m, blamed local bureaucracy for the failure to meet targets.

But the report said that, overall, its projects were more successful than other health programmes.

The Global Fund is backed by private donors and Western governments.

After the last international Aids conference in Barcelona, the Bush administration pledged $15bn over five years for Aids-related programmes overseas.

Nearly 2.3 million people have benefited from the programmes, but there is still a funding gap.

The World Health Organization says less than one in 10 of those infected with HIV in the developing world have access to the drugs they need.

The BBC's Karen Allen
"Despite extra funding, drugs are still beyond the reach of most in the developing world"

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