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Developments in Brief : African Nations Agree to Accept Western Help in Fight Against AIDS

November 16, 1986|Compiled from Times staff and wire service reports

Many African countries for the first time have agreed to accept help from Western nations in fighting the growing AIDS epidemic on that continent. The breakthrough came at an unusual open meeting in Brazzaville, Congo, last week.

"The meeting was a giant step forward," said Dr. Jonathan M. Mann, the director of the World Health Organization's AIDS program. "AIDS was discussed as freely as malaria or diarrhea. . . . A year ago, it was difficult to talk about it at all."

As a result of the meeting, Mann said, WHO will be actively assisting AIDS-control programs in 10 African nations by the end of the year. Previously only two African countries have sought international assistance, such as technical advice from AIDS experts and funds to set up laboratories to detect the virus that causes the disease.

"This was the first meeting in Africa where AIDS and problems associated with AIDS were discussed in open sessions, with the media present," Mann said in a telephone interview from the Congo Republic. "In one of the workshops, when one country didn't feel comfortable talking, all the other countries ganged up on him and said that we were beyond that and needed to share information."

Mann said WHO has raised $4.5 million for its global AIDS program since establishing the effort in June. Many of the funds are intended for Africa, where many researchers believe that the AIDS virus originated and began to cause the disease in the late 1970s. Several million Africans now are believed to be infected with the virus.

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