'Aids-free generation' is within our reach, Bill Clinton tells international summit

Ex-President also uses Aids 2014 Conference in Melbourne to condemn downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which saw six researchers and activists killed

Melbourne

An “Aids-free generation” is within reach, but will not be achieved until better care is provided around the world  for mothers with HIV and their newborn babies, former US President Bill Clinton has said.

Mr Clinton, whose charitable foundation has led the global fight against HIV/Aids for more than a decade, said that preventing transmission of HIV from mother to baby through breastfeeding was “perhaps the single most important thing” health authorities could do in order to eradicate the disease for future generations.

Speaking at the Aids 2014 Conference in Melbourne, Australia, Mr Clinton also paid tribute to the victims of the MH17 plane crash, who included six Aids researchers and activists who were en route to the conference, as well as 37 Australian citizens and residents.

In a strong condemnation of Russia and pro-Russian forces fighting in the east of Ukraine, Mr Clinton said that countries should not “weaken [their] resolve to take a strong stand” over the incident, accusing separatists alleged to have shot down the plane and “those who provided the means to do so” – a reference to reports that Russia supplied the missile system used – of being enemies of the spirit of international “interdependence” that has defined the global fight against HIV/Aids.

READ MORE: Delegates at International Aids Conference vow to honour MH17 victims

The former President, whose Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) funds HIV/Aids clinics in Africa and the Asia Pacific region, said great progress had been made in reducing HIV infection rates and Aids-related deaths, but “the job is far from done”.

Access to treatment for children, which lags behind treatment rates achieved for adults living with HIV, was a particular area for improvement, he said.

“We need to dramatically reduce transmission during the breastfeeding period,” he told the conference. “We’re getting better at reaching women during pregnancy, but once they deliver a healthy baby, many do not come back. As many as 50 per cent of all new paediatric infections occur during the breastfeeding period. Keeping these women in care until the end of breastfeeding is perhaps the single most important thing we can do to achieve an Aids-free generation.”

Video: Aids-relatede deaths fallen by a third

Despite improvements which now see a million high-risk children tested for HIV every year, globally 20,000 children are still infected every month, and 3.2 million are living with the disease.

Mr Clinton also warned over a growing split between the nations of the world over their response to HIV – with new, repressive anti-gay laws in Russia, Nigeria, Uganda and India raising fears that progress may be crippled by discrimination against high-risk groups.

It was “unbelievable”, Mr Clinton said, that “in some contexts” stigma and discrimination against groups at high risk of HIV, in particular gay men, was on the rise – another reference to Russia.

Referring to those accused of downing the MH17, Mr Clinton said that, by contrast, the Aids movement “represented the open hand against the clenched fist, inclusive politics and economics versus division and dominance, cooperation against control, life against death”.

Professor Sharon Lewin, of Australia’s prestigious Burnet Institute for medical research, and co-chair of the Aids 2014 conference, told The Independent that the rise in discriminatory and stigmatising laws in some countries represented a severe setback.

“We’ve talked about stigma and discrimination for 30 years, but really in the last two years things have got worse with the criminalisation of behaviours that put people at risk of HIV... [which leads to] people no longer engaging in care,” she said.

One study, presented at the conference, carried out in Nigeria, which earlier this year introduced harsh new laws banning gay marriage, gay groups and public displays of affection between homosexual men, found that the number of people attending HIV clinics had declined since the introduction of harsh penalties, which include up to 14 years in prison for gay sex.

Mr Clinton’s speech was interrupted by protesters calling for a “Robin Hood” tax on financial transactions, which could generate billions of dollars of additional funding to help bring HIV/Aids treatment and prevention services to millions more people worldwide.

He waited until the protest was complete before carrying on with his speech, and even thanked the protesters. “This is called a conference but I think it’s really a movement,” he said. “That’s why it’s OK if someone stands up and has their say.”

Mr Clinton also paid tribute to leading Aids researcher Professor Joep Lange, who had worked with CHAI and was among the six conference delegates killed on MH17.

“He and the five other colleagues we lost, lived lives which are overpowering in their contribution to a shared future,” Mr Clinton said. “Those who shot them down represent the other side in our struggle to define the terms of our interdependence.”

Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living