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Global AIDS Conference Calls For Redoubled Efforts

The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington performed at the opening of the International AIDS Conference on July 22.
The world's largest annual conference on HIV/AIDS has kicked off in Washington with calls for intensified efforts against the disease that has killed 30 million people globally over the last three decades.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim cited progress in combatting the disease, telling the meeting on July 22 that "the end of AIDS" is now within reach.

"I pledge that the World Bank would work tirelessly with all of you here to drive the AIDS fight forward until we win," he said. "And I challenge you to join me in harnessing the moral power and practical lessons that the AIDS movement has produced to speed progress against that other global scourge -- poverty."

Addressing the conference by video, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also set ambitious goals.

"UNAIDS led by Michel Sidibe will continue to mobilize political action. We have a vision: no new HIV infections, no AIDS-related deaths, no stigma, and discrimination," Ban said. "This week, you can help to turn the tide. Let us start the end of AIDS now."

Sidibe, who heads the United Nations agency that coordinates anti-AIDS efforts, said the $16.8 billion that nations spend annually to fight the disease is still $7 billion short of what is needed to fully fund efforts

In advance of the meeting, Ban appointed Michel Kazatchkin, the former director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, as UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The region continues to have one of the highest HIV infection rates, with infections up 22 percent since 2005. There are 1.5 million people living with HIV in the region, with 170,000 new cases reported in 2011.

Ban said the rising infections indicate a need for greater advocacy efforts in the region.

Some 25,000 activists, scientists, and policymakers have gathered for the six-day annual conference, which is being held in the United States for the first time since 1990.

Annah Sango, a member of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, emphasized the particular challenges HIV/AIDS present for women.

"We know women are now more than half of the world's population living with HIV, and HIV is the leading cause of death for women in their reproductive years," Sango said. "In 2012, the HIV pandemic has a woman's shape. We have to reshape our response if we are going to turn the tide."

Speaking at the conference on July 23, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that science and public health advances now allow the world to "imagine a time when we will no longer be afflicted" by the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Clinton also warned that sex workers, gay men, and others at high risk of contracting the virus are being marginalized in much of the world, including Eastern Europe, and that this is helping the virus to spread.

Globally, some 34.2 million people are infected with HIV, according to UN figures.

Later in the week, the Washington conference will discuss new research into treatment and possible cures.

With reporting by AP and dpa
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