Africa should protect children from AIDS: Machel

JOHANNESBURG Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:46pm EDT

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - African leaders should be more serious about protecting the continent's children from AIDS and it is time for them to change state spending priorities, Nelson Mandela's wife Graca Machel said Thursday.

"No matter how small our budgets, we must do something. We will not get there (HIV reduction) with African leaders who don't get moved by people dying," she said during her launch of the Campaign to End Paediatric HIV/AIDS (CEPA).

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 60 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS and 1.8 million of the 2 million children globally infected, a reality Machel said should jolt African leaders into action.

"I am not really convinced that some of the budgets we have for defense are absolutely necessary," Machel, an advocate for women and children's rights, told Reuters.

"There is a need to re-direct resources from defense. For me the priorities are health, education, water supply, agriculture."

CEPA seeks to work with African governments and community-based organizations to ease bottlenecks in the provision of mother-to-child-transmission drugs which will can prevent the spread of HIV to newborns.

By 2012, it aims to reach at least 80 percent of children at risk, more than double the number who currently have access to treatment.

"It is time to say, 'let us re-engineer our budgets, lets use the little resources we have much more wisely'," Machel said.

(Editing by Jon Hemming)

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