African Leaders Gathering on AIDS

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Dec. 2 -African leaders, international donors and the U.N. secretary-general will discuss a common front to curb the epidemic during a five-day conference that opens Sunday in the Ethiopian capital.

THE U.N. Economic Commission for Africa has invited 1,500 participants to discuss progress in preventing and treating AIDS and to share national responses to the epidemic that in the last two decades has left 13.7 million Africans dead out of global total of 16.3 million.

"It is no longer merely a health problem but poses a major development crisis in the continent," the economic commission said in a statement. "Sub-Saharan Africa has only one-tenth of the global population, but it bears the brunt of the disease with more than 80 percent of the AIDS-related deaths in the world."

The HIV infection that causes AIDS has taken a devastating toll in poverty-stricken African nations, depriving them of their youth and labor, reducing economic growth and jeopardizing development prospects as well as political stability, the economic commission said. Each day in Africa, more than 6,000 people die of AIDS and AIDS-related diseases.