Clinton, Mandela Call for ‘Strong Leadership’ Against HIV/AIDS at Closing Ceremonies
As reported, speaking Friday at the closing ceremonies of the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, former President Bill Clinton and former South African President Nelson Mandela urged government and business leaders to "exert stronger leadership" to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the New York Times reports. Clinton, who addressed the conference first, said that he did not know how the world had "let a preventable disease infect 40 million people and threaten to infect nearly 100 million in a few years" (Altman, New York Times, 7/13). Echoing his earlier statements at the conference, Clinton called on the United States to "help underwrite AIDS prevention and treatment in developing nations," saying, "We should figure out what our share is, and we should pay it" (Brown, Washington Post, 7/13). Clinton added that developing countries should "pool together" to negotiate low drug prices, determine what they can afford and then "send the rest of us the bill for the difference" (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/13). Clinton also stated that HIV/AIDS should not be considered a "badge of shame," adding, "There are still people who view AIDS as something that affects only people who are different. We all know the victims" (BBC News, 7/12). Clinton said that he plans to travel to India and Africa before the end of the year to "lend visibility and support" to HIV/AIDS programs (Brown, Hamilton Spectator, 7/13). HIV/AIDS will be his "main interest," he said, vowing to work to raise money for the International AIDS Trust, which he co-chairs with Mandela (Washington Post, 7/13). "I call on you to hold me accountable to that commitment, and to provide ideas of what else I can do," Clinton concluded (Hamilton Spectator, 7/13).
Mandela Calls For Renewed Leadership
Following Clinton's remarks, Mandela addressed the conference about the need for "stron[g] leadership" and additional HIV testing and treatment, the New York Times reports (New York Times, 7/13). Mandela, who also spoke at the closing ceremonies at the XIII International AIDS conference in 2000 held in Durban, South Africa, said that "AIDS is a war against humanity." The Chronicle reports that Friday's comments by Mandela, who "electrified" conference attendees two years ago by saying that "history will judge us harshly" for not addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic, "lacked the fire and lofty rhetoric" of his earlier speech. "Eloquence on this pandemic is good. But it is not sufficient. Unless we are able to follow what we say by doing something practical, our eloquence is less than useless," Mandela said (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/13). Without directly commenting on the South African government, which has been criticized for an "ineffective response" to HIV/AIDS, Mandela said that "strong leadership is key to an effective response" to HIV/AIDS (Dyer, Financial Times, 7/13). Mandela also spoke about the need for providing antiretroviral therapy and the importance of HIV testing, saying, "When you keep quiet, you are ... signing your own death warrant." Mandela also addressed the "growing problem of AIDS orphans," the Post reports. "If parents with AIDS can be given a few more years, then their children will be given a greater opportunity for normal survival and development," Mandela said. He added that children orphaned by AIDS "may well be subjected to abuse, violence, discrimination, trafficking and loss of inheritance" (Washington Post, 7/13). "To my mind, nothing can be more heart-rending and in need of urgent attention than the case of AIDS orphans who so often find themselves rejected and ostracized by communities. This is a tragedy of enormous consequences," Mandela stated (Boseley, Guardian, 7/13).
NPR's "All Things Considered" Friday reported on Clinton and Mandela's address to the conference. The full segment is available in RealPlayer Audio online (Siegel, "All Things Considered," NPR, 7/12). NPR's "Weekend Edition" Saturday also reported on the address. The full segment is available in RealPlayer Audio online (Browning, "Weekend Edition Saturday," NPR, 7/13). NPR's coverage of the conference is available online.