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Africa's Men Urged to Step Up AIDS Fight

South Africa's top female politician warned Saturday that men must get fully involved in the war against HIV/AIDS if the disease is to be defeated.

"There aren't enough men who are taking enough responsibility to go for tests and live responsibly, and that kind of (behaviour) compromises the fight," Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, South Africa's Deputy President, told the closing session of the International Women's Summit on HIV/AIDS here.

She urged men to live responsibly, to go for tests and participate in projects to help end the pandemic that has infected some affects 39.5 million people worldwide, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

"The response to HIV will not be won if men do not come on board since they are equally affected or infected," she said;

South Africa had emphasised men's role in AIDS campaigns by organising men as activists," she said.

Several women living with the virus told the conference of their ordeals of physical and emotional consequences of the virus, of how their husbands infected them before abandoning them or chased them from their homes.

The conference heard that in sub-Saharan Africa, 60 percent of all adults living with the virus are female. Kenya, which hosted the summit, the ratio reaches 67 percent.

The UNAIDS and World Health Organisation, the frontline agencies coordinating the fight against the epidemic, said gender equality and the empowerment of women are key to slowing the spread of the killer virus.

Mlambo-Ngcuka said the empowerment of women was a potent weapon against the disease.

"Addressing the economic status of women" would help them to make choices so that "they can get out abusive relationships, they can acquire the support that they need.

"The most important thing is remove women from the bottom of the prymaid," she said.

As of June 2006, around one million Africans were rece iving antiretroviral drugs which help roll back the AIDS virus, a tenfold increase since December 2003.

But this was still less than a quarter of the estimated 4.6 million people in need of the drugs, the conference heard.


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