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Senegalese President Pleads For Equal Treatment For Africans with AIDS

December 16, 1991

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) _ Senegal’s president appealed Monday to wealthy nations to make the best AIDS treatments available to the world’s poorest continent.

Opening Africa’s sixth AIDS conference, President Abdou Dioufsaid an AIDS test, for example, costs about the same as a year’s health care for the average African. The main drug used for AIDS treatment, AZT, is too expensive for the vast majority of Africans.

Diouf told 2,500 delegates from 80 nations that the high cost of treatment was one reason AIDS had become a leading cause of deaths among Africa’s young adults. Six million Africans have been infected with the disease and 14 million were expected to be infected by the end of the century, World Health Organization officials told the conference.

Diouf said research being conducted on the Africa continent was crucial to the development of treatments for the disease, and Africans should benefit.

″The final products (of this research) should be made available to poor countries the same way they are in the developed world,″ Diouf said.

Major AIDS research is being conducted in several African countries, including Zaire, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Senegal and Uganda. At least one vaccine has been tested in Zaire.

Africa is considered a good testing ground for vaccines because the spread of the disease is slowing in the developed world, making it difficult to get large enough groups to conduct studies.

Diouf said the developed world’s reaction to Africa’s AIDS crisis would be a test of its commitment to equality. ″Fear and racism are epidemics for which there are no vaccines,″ he said.

Michael Merson, head of the World Health Organization’s AIDS program, told the convention the disease had infected at least 6 million Africans, or one of 40 adults. He said 750,000 children were infected with the AIDS virus after receiving it from their mothers.

Merson said surveys indicate the number of infected Africans would reach 14 million by the end of the century, and at least 5 million of those would suffer from the disease’s symptoms.

The surveys also have indicated the disease is hitting the educated elite of the continent especially hard, further retarding development. Heterosexual sex is the main cause of AIDS in Africa, and doctors say promiscuity is most prevalent among the urban middle class with the skills needed to promote development.

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