Clinton and Gates tag team AIDS Conference

Insis AIDS will be wiped out

Anthony Cuesta | August 16, 2006

Former U.S. president, Clinton and the Microsoft chairman, Gates
TORONTO — Despite infection rates that are ravaging Africa and other parts of the developing world, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates insisted Monday a "happy ending" is in the offing and AIDS will be vanquished.

According to Canada�s National Post, the former U.S. president and the Microsoft chairman conceded at the International AIDS Conference Monday the turning point in the pandemic has not yet been reached and may not come until scientists develop a vaccine or some other form of preventive tool.

Clinton, whose charitable foundation is largely focused on the HIV/AIDS cause, said visiting endemic regions gives him optimism for an AIDS-free future.

Gates called HIV/AIDS the "worst medical disaster ever in history," but said the conference, with its gathering of 24,000 scientists, doctors and activists, gives him great hope.

"There is a lot of energy in here," he told conference attendees. "Overall, this is a story that will have a happy ending."

Their message was in contrast to the continuous flow of bad news about the disease, the CanWest News Service reports. About 45 million people live with the virus and almost three million died last year, the the UNAIDS organization estimates.

Clinton admitted it is still a "rocky road" and probably will be until the discovery of a vaccine, likely years away.

"AIDS is not a problem where we've turned the corner yet," added Gates. A vaccine, an effective preventive regimen using existing HIV drugs or the advent of microbicides gel or cream women can apply to stave off infection would probably bring about that turning point, he said.

Clinton's appearance at the conference with Gates outdrew any of the myriad other sessions, as hundreds packed a cavernous meeting hall, and many more were turned away. Scores of delegates crowded around the ex-president as he left, snapping photographs and handing him their conference programs to be autographed, the Post reports.

He scoffed at the suggestion from an audience member that he had given the issue short shrift, noting the death rate from the disease in the U.S. dropped substantially on his watch and the U.S. contributed a quarter of all foreign, AIDS-related assistance.

"I did make a lot of mistakes when I was president, but this wasn't one of them," he said to laughter from the audience. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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