Several hundred African HIV/AIDS advocates on Tuesday marched in Senegal's capital of Dakar to urge U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to fulfill funding commitments for HIV/AIDS efforts, Reuters reports. The advocates demonstrated ahead of the 15th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa, which will take place from Dec. 3 to Dec. 7 in Dakar. The advocates, who dressed primarily in white, carried large puppets representing Obama and Sarkozy, a large red and yellow spiked ball representing HIV and banners with messages such as, "African children are watching you."
According to the advocates, the march aimed to remind French and U.S. leaders to sustain funding commitments to HIV/AIDS programs. Velephi Riba, a spokesperson for Save the Children, said Obama and Sarkozy "have to walk the talk," adding that pledges to support HIV/AIDS programs "must be fulfilled." Save the Children, which helped organize the march, said world leaders should not go back on commitments to provide support for people living with HIV despite the current global financial crisis. Ame David, another spokesperson for the organization, said that African children affected by HIV/AIDS, "who have never heard of Wall Street, should not pay the price for the global economic decline." According to Save the Children, Obama has pledged to provide at least $50 billion for international development. In addition, France has been a leading contributor to HIV/AIDS efforts in Africa, spending about $458 million annually. Riba said the two world leaders "must not drop from these pledges by a single dollar or euro" (Fletcher, Reuters, 12/2).
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