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OPEC Fund joins as Partners in Fight against HIV/AIDS

The OPEC Fund for International Development has become the latest organisation to join WHO in its fight against HIV/AIDS. An agreement signed today in Geneva marks the first of a series of OPEC Fund initiatives in HIV/AIDS established in response to the escalating AIDS crisis.

The initiative will fund WHO backed projects in 12 sub Saharan African* countries where almost 80 percent of the global burden of HIV/AIDS is concentrated. There are more than 28 million adults and children estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in the region – nearly ten percent of the population in sub Saharan Africa. Worldwide, there are an estimated 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS.

"In recent years, the OPEC Fund has grown increasingly distressed at the scale of human suffering and the extensive loss of life caused by HIV/AIDS," says Dr Y. Seyyid Abdulai, Director-General OPEC International Fund. "There is also the impact which HIV/AIDS has on development to consider. By destroying human capital, eroding productivity and reducing growth AIDS is undermining decades of efforts to promote economic and social development, reduce poverty and improve living standards."

The countries supported by the initiative include some of the poorest in Africa and those hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. The proportion of adults living with HIV/AIDS in the target countries ranges from around six percent in Togo to nearly 20 percent in Zambia. They are all low-income countries. All but one are in the bottom third of the UNDP Human Development index and all have low GDP per capita – ranging from US$500 to US$1,400.

"There are encouraging signs from countries such as Senegal and Uganda that the epidemic can be brought under control in Africa," says Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the World Health Organization. "However, more resources are needed if these kinds of successes are to be sustained. New alliances such as this one with the OPEC Fund are showing the way."

The OPEC International Fund for Development HIV/AIDS special account was established in June 2001 to support projects aimed at scaling up prevention, increasing support and care to people living with HIV/AIDS and reducing countries vulnerability to the disease. The first grant of US$ 8.1 million will be used in hardest hit countries in Africa*.

* Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Togo, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia

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For more information contact:

Mr Christopher Powell
Telephone: +41 22 791 2888
Mobile phone: +41 79 217 3425
E-mail: powellc@who.int