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HEALTH REPORT - Working to Prevent AIDS -- and Lacking Enough Health Workers for the Job

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This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Attendees watch a performance during the International AIDS Conference
Attendees watch a performance during the International AIDS Conference

The sixteenth International AIDS Conference ended Friday in Toronto, Canada.

All week there was discussion of the need to do more to prevent H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. Speakers called for educating and empowering women to give them more control over their bodies.

The delegates also discussed research on male circumcision as a possible way to reduce the spread of H.I.V. Early studies have suggested that the removal of the foreskin from the penis may reduce the risk of infection. But AIDS experts say they are waiting for results from additional studies to confirm these findings.

Delegates also heard calls to speed up the development of microbicide gels to help protect women against H.I.V. during sex. Scientists say an effective microbicide appears to be five to seven years away. But even a partially effective product could cut the number of new infections.

Research also continues on a vaccine to protect against the virus.

On another issue, critics of South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang called for her to resign. They say she continues to support traditional treatments like beetroot, garlic and lemon over antiretroviral drugs. These drugs are designed to suppress the growth of H.I.V.

The government of President Thabo Mbeki started to supply antiretroviral drugs a few years ago. But critics say only a small percentage of those in need receive them. AIDS has claimed more than two million lives in South Africa.

Stephen Lewis, the outgoing United Nations special representative for AIDS in Africa, spoke at the close of the conference. Mister Lewis called South Africa's actions "wrong, immoral and indefensible." South African health officials rejected his statements.

The World Health Organization want everyone who needs antiretroviral drugs to receive them by two thousand ten. But its acting chief, Anders Nordstrom, said countries hit hardest by AIDS face a growing shortage of health care workers. The health agency estimates that more than four million health workers are needed to help the world deal with AIDS.

This issue will likely be discussed in detail at the next International AIDS Conference in two thousand eight in Mexico City.

Scientists identified the first cases of AIDS twenty-five years ago.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Jill Moss. Transcripts and archives of our reports are at www.unsv.com. I'm Doug Johnson.

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