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Timetable set to develop and implement national stratagies to combat HIV/AIDS

The U.N. Special Session on HIV/AIDS approved a battle plan committing nations to fight the killer disease.After deliberations the 189-member U.N. General Assembly accepted a 20-page final declaration at the end of its three-day high-level session on AIDS.

“We worked hard but in fact the real work only starts now,” said U.N. General Assembly President Harri Holkeri after he banged the gavel to applause from the assembly.

“It is not a perfect text. But it is a good text — action oriented and practical,” said Australia’s U.N. Ambassador Penny Wensley, who led the negotiations along with Senagalese Ambassador Ibra Ka.

The declaration sets tough timetables for countries to develop and implement national strategies to combat the spread of HIV, set up prevention programs and provide access to treatment for all those affected. It states years by which those goals are to be implemented, including the global war chest to set up health programs in poor nations.

Addressing the General Assembly yesterday Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup said, “Today, HIV/AIDS has reached the farthest corners of the earth. Even we in the remote Himalayas cannot escape it.”

” While the number of lives lost and those infected with the virus in my country Bhutan is relatively small, we are acutely concerned about its implications on our small population, located as we are in a region where the epidemic is spreading at an alarming rate.”

Speaking about Bhutan’s national strategy Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup explained that Bhutan’s National STD/AIDS Control Programme, started in 1988, adopted a multisectoral initiative involving -all sections of our society. “The programme is integrated into our decentralized national health system. Education and awareness on HIV/AIDS has been taken to the rural community. Information on HIV/AIDS has been inculcated into our education curriculum and our Health Ministry’s information education activities maintain a sustained momentum in the awareness campaign.”

Some 3,000 government officials, activists, drug company executives and AIDS victims themselves converged on the United Nations this week to back a global agenda for tackling the pandemic and to galvanize funds for 36 million people facing a death sentence from the disease.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged the world to spend between $7 billion and $10 billion a year to respond to the pandemic, compared with about $2 billion currently spent in developing nations, half of it in Brazil alone.

African presidents and prime ministers were heavily represented and promised to lead anti-AIDS campaigns on the continent where 25 million are afflicted with the virus.

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