World AIDS Day inaugurates upgrade for 8 medical centers

Kenesset member Zehava Gal-On said that there is still a strong stigma against people with AIDS. So the 2001 goal of the War on AIDS Council is to encourage the community to be more supportive of AIDS patients, according to council head Rami Hessman.

Meanwhile, with AIDS hitting Africa harder than any other continent, African leaders, international donors, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan discussed a common front to curb the epidemic during a five-day conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The UN Economic Commission for Africa invited 1,500 participants to discuss progress in preventing and treating AIDS and to share national responses to the epidemic that has, in the past two decades, left 13.7 million Africans dead out of a global total of 16.3 million patients.

"It is no longer merely a health problem but poses a major development crisis in the continent," the ECU said in a statement. "Sub-Saharan Africa has only one-tenth of the global population, but it bears the brunt of the disease with more than 80 percent of the AIDS-related deaths in the world."

The HIV infection that causes AIDS has taken a devastating toll in poverty-stricken African nations, depriving them of their youth and labor, reducing economic growth and jeopardizing development prospects as well as political stability, the ECU said.

Annan delivered a keynote address Thursday to the conference, the annual gathering of the African Development Forum.

An additional forum for heads of state was planned to facilitate a faster and more efficient continent-wide response to combating the disease.

The presidents of Rwanda, Uganda and Botswana, the vice president of Malawi and the prime ministers of Senegal and Namibia were scheduled to attend.

The annual UN report on AIDS says the number of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa declined for the first time to 3.8 million from 4 million. That still leaves 25.3 million people infected, an increase of nearly one million.

The number of people living with the virus worldwide is expected to rise to 36.1 million by year's end. with 5.3 million of those people newly infected.