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Debt Repayments Crippling Effort To Fight HIV/AIDS

Debt Repayments Are Crippling Poor Countries' Efforts To Fight HIV/AIDS – UN Envoy

The world's poorest countries spend so much of their income paying off their foreign debts that they have to cut back on funding essential health and education programmes, the United Nations envoy for those nations said today as he called for greater action worldwide to combat the crippling effect of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the developing world.

Launching a publication at UN Headquarters in New York about how women in the least developed countries (LDCs) cope with HIV/AIDS, Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said "an unsustainable debt burden" meant some nations – such as Senegal, Malawi, and Sao Tome and Principe – must give about 30 per cent of their public income to repayments each year.

"It is a critical challenge for those countries as they are forced to choose between servicing their debts and investing in health and education and tackling poverty and HIV/AIDS, which are essential for building and developing their human and institutional capacity," Mr. Chowdhury told a panel discussion at the launch.

The world's 50 LDCs spent an estimated $5.1 billion in 2002 just on servicing their debts, he added.

Mr. Chowdhury said many women in poor States also face a personal dilemma in how they divide their time between nursing the sick and themselves on one hand, and earning a livelihood for their families and households on the other.

The Under-Secretary-General called for an aggressive international commitment to ensure that LDCs have the greatest possible chance of fighting HIV/AIDS and other problems that limit their development.

The panel discussion also heard from HIV/AIDS activists about their personal experiences of the disease and the importance of breaking taboos in some cultures and societies that prevent people from talking about it.

The report, published by Mr. Chowdhury's office and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), is entitled Hope: Building Capacity: Least Developed Countries Meet the HIV/AIDS Challenge.

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