An estimated fifteen-thousand delegates from one-hundred-sixty countries went to Bangkok, Thailand, to attend the 15th International AIDS conference. According to medical experts, almost forty-million people around the world are either infected with the H-I-V virus that causes the disease or have full-blown AIDS.
In 2003, about three-million people died from AIDS. That same year, some five-million more people became infected. The disease has left behind an estimated fifteen-million orphans, while the number of people who were cured remains zero.
President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda is one of those who has led the way in combating the stigma, denial, and misinformation associated with AIDS. In Uganda, citizens are doing what many thought impossible -- changing the behavior that causes the disease to spread. The AIDS infection rate in Uganda has been reduced by approximately two-thirds over a ten-year period -- a rare success story. America’s H-I-V/AIDS prevention strategy is based in part on Uganda’s successful approach.
Secretary of State Colin Powell says that the U.S. has committed more than eight-hundred-sixty million dollars to prevention, care, and treatment in fifteen of the world’s hardest hit countries:
“We are doing a great deal, the United States is.... The rest of the world has also got to step up. This is a disease that can be dealt with... Whether it’s the education of young people, prevention, abstinence, anti-retroviral drugs and getting the costs down, and looking ultimately for a cure, not stigmatizing people who are suffering from this disease -- all of these are part of a comprehensive approach to it.”
“H-I-V/AIDS can be beaten,” says President George W. Bush. The U.S. “is committed to continue leading the world in ending the plague.”