Obama, world leaders taken to task as AIDS meeting ends (Lead)

July 23rd, 2010 - 11:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Vienna, July 23 (DPA) US President Barack Obama and leaders of governments across the globe were asked to do more to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic by activists, as the 18th International AIDS Conference ended Friday in Vienna.
In a video message, Obama stressed his focus on groups that have a high risk of HIV infection. The statement sets the stage for the next such conference, which is scheduled to take place in Washington in 2012.

Obama reiterated the US HIV/AIDS strategy that was unveiled earlier this month. Its goal is to reduce the number of new infections by 25 percent over the next five years, and focus on prevention efforts among homosexuals, African-Americans and other high-risk groups.

But activists told delegates in Vienna that the US still had some work to do in dealing with the HIV epidemic.

“At this rate many will die, even before the national strategy can be implemented,” said Larry Bryant, a US-based activist.

The US administration was not the only government criticized at the closing session.

Patricia Perez, the head of an international women’s AIDS organization, received applause when she called on countries to fund the fight against the epidemic rather than buying armaments.

The conference chairman, Julio Montaner, took Eastern European governments to task for having allowed the number of infections to rise to one million.

“This borders on criminal negligence,” he said about current policies in the region, which was one of the focal points of the conference.

Earlier, the UN’s chief expert on torture, Manfred Nowak, had warned that misguided practices around the globe were turning prisons into breeding grounds for HIV, and said that needle exchanges and drug substitution should be offered to detainees.

Although the more than 19,000 conference participants spent much of the past week issuing calls to governments, the meeting also served to build contacts and share knowledge.

“With you by my side I am no longer alone and marginalized,” said Waheedah Shabazz-El, a HIV-positive US activist.

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