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AFRICA: IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS Briefs, 14 August 2001

JOHANNESBURG, 14 August 2001 (PlusNews) - AFRICA: SADC leaders urge states to fight HIV/AIDS Leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting in Malawi urged member countries to strengthen joint efforts to control the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region, the news agency Inter Press Service reported on Tuesday. Sam Nujoma, president of Namibia and chairman of SADC, said at the opening of the summit in Blantyre that the HIV/AIDS pandemic continued to pose a major threat to the development of the southern African region. HIV/AIDS is one of the key issues on the summit’s agenda. Nujoma said that it was estimated that about 10 million people in the region are living with HIV/AIDS, accounting for five percent of the total population of the region. “The reality is that today we have in the region a traumatic situation where either grandparents or children head households,” he noted. Malawian President Bakili Muluzi also emphasized the importance of joint efforts in fighting against the scourge. “We can win the fight against HIV/AIDS if we work together with determination,” he stressed. A new UN report, ‘HIV/AIDS: Implications for Poverty Reduction,’ says the pandemic is shaving off up to two percent of annual economic growth in many SADC countries and will shrink total Gross National Product (GNP) by up to 40 percent within 20 years. SADC executive secretary Prega Ramsamy said that this was unacceptable and more should be done to reverse the trend. Nujoma also called for increased investment in research for vaccine, generic drugs, treatment and care for those living with the disease. In a SADC ministerial meeting held ahead of the summit, Malawian Vice-President Justin Malewezi said the 14-country SADC has less than five percent of the world’s population but “is home to more than 50 percent of those living with HIV/AIDS, and is where 60 percent of the AIDS deaths have occurred”. He also said the pandemic “is turning back the clock on development, and nowhere has it reached such emergency proportions as it has in the region.”

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