Former U.S. President Bill Clinton wrapped up a three-day, four country trip
to Africa with an address at a hospital in Senegal. Brent Latham reports from
our West Africa bureau in Dakar, Clinton praised a French-led project to provide
medicine to children in developing countries infected with HIV.
Mr. Clinton spoke about his foundation's partnership with the UNITAID initiative that was founded in 2006 by France, Brazil, Chile, Norway and the United Kingdom to find innovative ways to finance medicine for the worldwide fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
Mr. Clinton praised the UNITAID initiative for helping to drastically lower the cost of HIV treatment for children in developing countries.
"Now that we have, thanks to UNITAID, access to the pediatric anti-retroviral medicine, the World Health Organization said, from now on, infants should be treated as soon as they are diagnosed HIV positive. This has the potential to reduce the rate of childhood death and morbidity four fold. It has staggering implications for how we care for our children throughout the world for the next several years," the former president said.
Mr. Clinton said efforts by UNITAID have gone a long way to help poor children infected with HIV.
Mr. Clinton, flanked by the French Minister of International Cooperation and Senegal's Minister of Health, said the UNITAID initiative and the Clinton Foundation have succeeded in helping to lower the price of anti-retroviral treatment for children tenfold in recent years. He said the accomplishment was made possible by facilitating an increase in the scale of drug production by raising the number of children treated.
Mr. Clinton said five years ago only 10,000 poor children worldwide were receiving treatment for HIV. Half a million were dying of AIDS each year. Today more than 200,000 are being treated, fulfilling the universal right to access medicine, Mr. Clinton says.
"It is all very well to talk about how everybody has a universal right to medicine but if you do not have it, a right is not really a right," Mr. Clinton said. "An unexercised right does not really exist."
The stop in Dakar was the last on Mr. Clinton's three day tour of Africa which also included visits to Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Liberia.
The Clinton delegation included daughter Chelsea and actor Ted Danson.
Mr. Clinton said the trip was meant to review the efforts of the Clinton Foundation to deal with HIV/AIDS, build comprehensive national health networks, create economic opportunity, and fight the problems of global warming.