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Aids conference in US aims at turning tide
After 22 years, the 19th Aids Conference began in Washington, DC, on Sunday. Under the theme, “Turning the Tide Together,” more than 23,000 delegates from over 195 countries are expected to gather at the Washington Convention Centre over the next six days. Many who attended the opening ceremony, which began at 6 pm on Sunday at the centre, said the fact the conference was convening on American soil has signalled an end to a long and controversial ban which previously banned known HIV-positive people from entering the United States. Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAids, who spoke at the ceremony, said it was very possible to put an end to the disease. “We can end Aids.
Those of us hear this all the time. Wear a condom. Give money, end Aids. “This time it is different, this time together we will end Aids,” Sidibe said. He said, however, the opportunity to eradicate HIV/Aids would evaporate if the world failed to act. Urging for treatment to be scaled up as prevention, Sidibe added: “This is a time of social transformation... at a time when 34 million people living with HIV and many more who are affected are demanding health, justice and dignity.” He said organisations involved in the global response to HIV/Aids had broken a trajectory of new infections, with a worldwide decline of 20 per cent since 2001. He added: “Science is giving us great tools for treatment and prevention and real hope for a vaccine and a cure. “Momentum is growing for a transaction tax. This can easily close the gap in global investment.” World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, who also spoke, said when the world looked back on the history of the epidemic, it was difficult to say whether there was any one moment when the turn of tide began. He added: “And at every turn, it is the activists and their communities, that have led the way. “As we gather here in Washington, we have seen remarkable gains in the fight.
Prevalence has fallen steeply in many countries, new prevention strategies show great promise and more than eight million people are on treatment today.” Describing HIV/Aids as more than just a medical problem, Yong Kim said the disease had devastating economic and social impacts on individuals, families and communities. “That’s why social protection is also a critical piece of a comprehensive Aids response. “Every year, worldwide, 150 million people are forced into poverty by increased health expenditure and lost income due to illness, including Aids,” Young Kim added. Actress Sharon Stone, who hosted the event, urged for a united front in the fight against the disease and called for love instead of hate. The opening ceremony also brought out a huge cross-section of various groups, including human rights activists, the gay and lesbian community and healthcare workers.
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