Panel of AIDS Activists Says African Epedemic Needs Attention

The African AIDS epidemic will spiral out of control if afflicted countries and the U.S. do not devote significantly more resources to the problem, a group of AIDS activists told a crowd of several hundred at the ARCO forum last night.

The panelists, who included filmmaker Rory Kennedy, the executive director of the Harvard AIDS Institute and the Rev. Eugene Rivers III, spoke for nearly two hours on "The Crisis of AIDS in Africa."

The event began with a screening of Kennedy's Epidemic Africa, a 10-minute video commissioned by President Clinton's Mission on Children Orphaned by AIDS in Africa.


With images of hand-painted coffin advertisements and school children singing in a chorus about losing parents to AIDS, the video presented a series of statistics on the extent to which AIDS has ravaged the African continent.

5,500 AIDS-related funerals occur in Africa every day, the video said, and by the year 2010, 95 percent of children orphaned by AIDS will be living in Africa.

"One of the growth industries [in Africa] is the coffin business," said panelist Bill Harris, a member of the President's mission. "There are now environmental issues because of the free cutting of timber to make coffins."

Panelists said the main impetus for change must come from within African countries, but that it is crucial that the U.S. contribute resources to the effort.

"The agenda has to be determined by the African countries," said Dr. Richard Marlink, executive director of the Harvard AIDS Institute. "It must not come from an outside agenda."

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