For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:  UNIS/SG/2534
Release Date:  5 April 2000
 Secretary-General Says Aids in Africa Tragedy on ‘Biblical Scale’, Profoundly Welcomes
$57 Million Gates Foundation Grant 

  NEW YORK, 4 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the statement of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s $57 million grant to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for programmes that will protect African youth against AIDS: 

 We have only four years to meet the target set by a special session of the General Assembly last June -- that, in the most-affected countries, HIV infections in young people ages from 15 to 24 should be reduced by one  quarter before the year 2005. 

 During a high-level meeting last December of African governments, United Nations agencies fighting against AIDS, donor governments, private corporations and foundations, I listed the responsibility of each partner in the struggle against the pandemic, which presents us, especially in Africa, with a tragedy on a biblical scale. Africa's southern and eastern region is home to more than 50 per cent of those living with HIV and accounts for 60 per cent of all AIDS deaths, so far. Furthermore, the impact of AIDS in the region is no less destructive than that of warfare itself; it has killed about 10 times more people in Africa than armed conflict. 

 This unprecedented crisis requires an unprecedented response from all. Thankfully, in many cases, Africa itself is leading the counter-attack. Most governments now understand that the first battle to be won in the war against AIDS is the one to smash the wall of silence and stigma surrounding it and to recognize it officially. That way, they could convince donors and corporate partners that they mean business, and fighting this disease is their top priority. Many are now speaking out and backing up words with concrete action. They need the support of other national and international actors, such as community groups, non-governmental organizations, corporations and foundations. 

 It is in this context that I most profoundly welcome the decision of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide a grant of $57 million to strengthen efforts to protect young people in Botswana, Ghana, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. This extremely generous action will contribute immeasurably to the efforts of African countries to control the spread of HIV/AIDS. It also sets an example that I call on other partners to emulate. 

 I am pleased that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is in partnership with non-governmental organizations, such as the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), and Pathfinder International, in this endeavour. Their partnership in close collaboration with the four countries is exactly what will promote real sustainable development. 

 The contribution of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of young men and women in Africa. But, its effects go beyond this. It should give the international community a gentle nudge towards meeting the target of significantly reducing HIV infections in young people in the most-affected countries by the year 2005 -- a target set at last year's General Assembly special session on the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development. I hope this contribution, coming just before the anti-AIDS coalition produces a plan of action in May, will be a positive omen of further actions to come in order to conquer AIDS very soon.

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