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Archive for Sunday, October 28, 2001

Conference aims to improve lives of people battling AIDS

October 28, 2001

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— Faye Gonzalez said she volunteered to be injected with a new experimental vaccine against HIV after the virus took the life of a close friend last year.

"If by helping to develop a vaccine I could spare somebody else that pain, then I want to be part of that," Gonzalez, 35, said recently after receiving one in a series of test shots.

Preventative programs, treatment and ways to improve the lives of those battling HIV and AIDS are key topics at the 10th Annual International Conference for People Living with HIV/AIDS, which began Saturday in Trinidad and Tobago.

"Persons living with HIV and AIDS must be a part of the solution. In practice, that is absolutely not the case," said Peter Piot, executive director of the joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS.

Some 600 people from around the world who are infected with the virus are expected to attend the five-day conference.

An estimated 36 million people are infected with the virus that causes AIDS, which has already killed 16.5 million people, according UNAIDS.

This year's conference is in the Caribbean to reach out to the region's HIV-infected people, said Stuart Flavell, of the Netherlands-based Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS.

The Caribbean, excluding Cuba, has an HIV infection rate of nearly 2 percent, the second-highest prevalence of HIV infection after sub-Saharan Africa.

New treatments that arrest the progression of AIDS prove too costly for many in both regions.

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