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HIV Has Become Africa's Biggest Challenge, UNAIDS Warns

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Maputo (dpa) - HIV has undoubtedly become Africa's biggest challenge, the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS warned at the start of the African Union summit in Mozambique on Thursday.

Up to 1,000 adults and children were dying of the disease every day in some of the worst-affected countries in Africa where an estimated 30 million of the world's 42 million infected adults live, the agency said.

"Sixty million Africans have been touched by Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the most immediate way. They are either living with HIV, have died of AIDS or they have lost their parents to AIDS. But the toll of those directly affected is even higher," said UNAIDS director Dr Peter Piot.

He was speaking at the international Global Forum on Health and Development at the summit in the capital Maputo that has attracted about 40 heads of state and senior officials of the 53 member body.

According to estimates by the World Health Organisation and UNAIDS, the continent would need around 5.2 billion dollars annually for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support programmes by 2005.

"Only if AIDS is rapidly brought under control will social and economic development be able to flourish," Piot noted. "This can become a reality, if African leaders make it their business to invest in both AIDS prevention and care and treatment."

Copyright 2003 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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