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US blocking international deal on fighting Aids
The Bush administration, heavily influence by the Christian right, is blocking key proposals for a new United Nations package to combat Aids worldwide over the next five years because of its opposition to the distribution of condoms and needle exchanges and references to prostitutes, drug addicts and homosexuals.
The United States is being supported by many Muslim countries, including Egypt, and various conservative African and Latin American nations. "There are a lot of unholy alliances all over the place," said a European official attending UN talks in New York last night.
Fraught negotiations were continuing to try to salvage as much of the package as possible. More than 140 nations are attending the UN summit in New York which began on Wednesday. The meeting is intended to update a 2001 declaration that provided the momentum for a worldwide campaign against Aids. A new declaration is due to be agreed today.
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, told the summit: "The world has been unconscionably slow in meeting one of the most vital aspects of the struggle: measures to fight the spread of Aids among women and girls. These shortcomings are deadly."
A report published on Tuesday by the agency UNAIDS says new figures suggest the infection rate is slowing down globally, but new infections are continuing to increase in certain regions and countries.
The report adds that an estimated 38.6 million people are living with the Aids virus, HIV; 4.1 million were newly infected last year; 2.8 million died of Aids last year; and treatment with medicines is available to less than half of those infected withthe virus.
Of those infected worldwide, almost half - about 17 million - are women, and three-quarters of those are in Africa.