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HIV Advocates: Produce More Funds

HIV Advocates: Produce More Funds

Doctors and AIDS activists on September 10 urged African governments to fulfill a decade-old pledge to spend more of their own money on health if they want international help in fighting AIDS.

Graca Machel, a longtime advocate for children in her homeland of Mozambique and around the world, told reporters that African governments need to honor pledges made at an African Union summit in 2001 to devote at least 15% of national budgets to health.

To date, only a half dozen countries have done so. Machel blames a lack of political will. "We have to prove ourselves if we are to have the courage to look into the eyes of our children and say, ‘We do care,'" she says.

Strengthened health systems will mean more pregnant women will get prenatal care and be tested for HIV. Those who test positive can take drugs that will prevent HIV from being transmitted to infants.

Avertino Barreto, Mozambique's deputy director of health, adds that foreigners cannot be expected to help if Africans don't help themselves. "I believe that donors will come," Barreto says. "But African governments...must take the first decision."

Machel, who is married to former South African president Nelson Mandela, says she will lobby African leaders hard: "The tendency of making pledges which then are not met, it's not only health. That's why we hammer the issue of leadership."

She laments that children born in Africa and other poor regions don't have the opportunities their counterparts in the rich world have to lead long, healthy lives.

"We're here to say this is unacceptable," she says. "It's not where you are born which should determine what kind of life you are entitled to."

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