7out of 10 AIDS Cases Occur in Africa.We Must Help These Poor People; BY AN TAOISEACH BERTIE AHERN

Article excerpt

CARING Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is set to put the fight against AIDS and HIV at the top of Europe's foreign policy agenda.

The Fianna Fail leader recently saw the plight of dying children on a visit to South Africa.

Now he has asked the head of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, to ensure that the EU's aid budget be directed to HIV/AIDS projects as a priority.

The initiative was made when Bertie flew to Cairo this week to meet with the heads of African and European countries.

And today in the Irish Sunday People he tells our readers why this issue is so important to him.

THE problem of HIV/AIDS is now largely concentrat-ed in the poorer countries of the world.

But I believe the international community has a duty and moral responsibility to respond to this problem.

I will ensure that Ireland plays its part in responding to this huge challenge.

The Irish Government provides tens of millions of pounds every year for emergency and developmental aid in poorer countries all over the world.

A number of HIV/AIDS projects are already being funded directly by the Irish Government (through Ireland Aid) in Ghana, Mozambique, Uganda and Lesotho.

In January - when I visited South Africa and Lesotho - Ireland Aid, which funnels the money into Third World projects, launched a new drive to support HIV/AIDS projects in Africa and other developing countries.

When I was in Lesotho I met with Mathato Mosisili, the wife of the Lesotho Premier, and she told me just how terrible the problem of HIV/AIDS is and how it has the capacity to wipe out future generations.

In her country alone a whole generation of people aged between 20 and 40 could be wiped out over the next five years.

The even sadder thing is that Lesotho is not alone - this could happen in many other African countries too.

I was aware that AIDS is a big problem in Africa. When I visited there the one issue that was raised time and time again with the great variety of people I met, from community representatives to heads of state, was the impact AIDS is having on the lives of African people. …