Advocates engaged in the battle against HIV and AIDS urged donor countries Friday in Tokyo not to cut their contributions amid the global economic slump.

Their plea came during a symposium held in Chiyoda Ward hosted by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Japan Center for International Exchange; Friends of the Global Fund, Japan; Magnum Photos; and the Asahi Shimbun to kick off “Access to Life,” a photo exhibition documenting the treatment of people living with AIDS worldwide.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who gained fame in 1996 as health minister for exposing the health ministry’s role in the HIV infection of thousands of hemophiliacs via tainted blood products, made an appearance Friday at the symposium.

“On the one hand, there still exists military conflict in the world we live in today, and on the other hand, there are just about as many people dying of diseases,” Kan said. “I think the most important task for the world is to establish a network for true human security so people can help others.”

Visiting Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDs (UNAIDS) Executive Director Michel Sidibe stressed that the help of Global Fund, which is an international financing institution to prevent and treat HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, has made it possible for a 12-fold increase in the number of HIV patients given treatment as well as for reducing the number of new infections by 17 percent in just Africa alone. Sidibe added that Japan was the fourth-largest donor to Global Fund.

“It is not time to scale down, it is time to scale up” donations, said Sidibe, who is from Mali. “It is time to continue to believe that we are creating hope that millions of people are there, waiting for our global solidarity, to continue to be active.”

Another participant of the symposium was Carol Nyirenda, a board member of Global Fund who herself has been diagnosed with AIDS. She spoke of her experience in the continuous battle with the disease. Nyirenda said that before, being infected with HIV was like “a death sentence,” but now, there is hope for patients who can receive treatment with the help of Global Fund.

“Access to Life” runs from Sunday till Sept. 22 at Yurakucho Asahi Square/Gallery.

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