Obama, Clinton Pledge US Support For AIDS Fight

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VIENNA (AP) _ President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged Friday the support of the United States in the global fight against AIDS.

Speaking via prerecorded video at the close of an international conference on fighting the disease, the two said they were committed to building upon progress and taking the lead in ensuring a sustainable and effective response.

“Ending this pandemic won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight,” Obama told delegates gathered for the conference’s closing ceremony. “But thanks to you, we’ve come a long way _ and the United States is committed to continuing that progress.”

Clinton, in her comments, said the United States believes access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care should be a universal and shared responsibility and said health was a human right.

“As we push to expand access to these resources, the United States will continue to work with our partner countries and with civil society to help empower citizens to lead the charge in their own countries,” she said.

During the weeklong meeting in the Austrian capital, the more than 19,000 delegates heard promising news about a vaginal gel _ spiked with the AIDS drug tenofir _ that has proved capable of blocking the AIDS virus.

They also welcomed the fact that a record 5.2 million people were receiving lifesaving AIDS drugs last year, up from 4 million in 2008.

But the gathering was overshadowed by woes about funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which provides major support for AIDS programs around the world.

Donors meet in October to decide on the fund’s financing level for the next three years amid concerns that a desired $20 billion in pledges won’t be reached.

While some protesters directly targeted the United States, a recent U.N. report showed that the U.S. was the largest donor of international AIDS assistance in 2009, accounting for more than 58 percent of disbursements by governments.

Activists and conference chief Julio Montaner also slammed the rich G-8 countries for failing to deliver on a commitment to ensure that everyone infected with HIV and AIDS gets treatment by 2010.

“To deny treatment is to deny life itself,” Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu of South Africa, said in a separate video message at the start of ceremony. “Now is the time to invest resources into health care, into HIV research, into training and health management.”

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