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AIDS Conference Closes, But Hard Work Begins


Civil rights activists march in Durban, South Africa, at the start of the 21st World Aids Conference, July 18, 2016. (AP Photo)

Civil rights activists march in Durban, South Africa, at the start of the 21st World Aids Conference, July 18, 2016. (AP Photo)

Health officials, experts, advocates, researchers and many others gathered in South Africa last week for the 2016 International AIDS Conference.

AIDS is short for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

As the conference was ending, organizers told delegates to go back home and start the hard work toward an ambitious goal. The goal is to end the threat from the disease by the year 2030.

Philanthropist and Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, spoke at this year's International Aids Conference, 2016.

Philanthropist and Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, spoke at this year's International Aids Conference, 2016.

The five-day conference offered delegates a chance to hear about ways to stop new infections from HIV, the virus responsible for the disease. They also could attend discussions on treatment for those infected and efforts to develop a vaccine for AIDS.

The first International AIDS Conference was held 21 years ago. Since then, health officials and researchers have made progress against the disease. Yet HIV/AIDS has killed tens of millions of people, infected tens of millions and continues to infect many more.

More than 1 million AIDS-related deaths were recorded last year. Seventeen million infected people are receiving antiretroviral drugs. But 20 million others have yet to be treated.

This led conference organizers to appeal to all nations and their citizens to do what is necessary to stop these numbers from increasing.

Olive Shisana was a co-chair of the conference this year.

“We need to heed the call to start a social justice movement that aims to reinvigorate the HIV response similar to the global anti-apartheid movement that we had.”

Apartheid was a system of racial separation in South Africa. It ended in the 1990s.

At the conference, the South African health minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, called on young people to launch a campaign to bring about a new generation free from HIV.

“A global campaign led by young people is urgent. If we don’t we will not be able to achieve a generation free of HIV/AIDS by 2030.”

Linda-Gail Bekker is the incoming president of the International AIDS Society. She made an emotional appeal to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The fund collects donations and provides financing to prevent and treat those diseases.

“Whether people live or die in many countries will depend on how donors respond to the Global Fund’s call to action. Lives depend on the Global Fund.”

The message to all delegates was simple and clear; the conference might have ended, but the hard work has just begun.

I’m Anna Matteo.

Britain's Prince Harry was among other famous people who spoke at the conference, 2016. He is pictured with young AIDS Ambassadors. (AP Photo)

Britain's Prince Harry was among other famous people who spoke at the conference, 2016. He is pictured with young AIDS Ambassadors. (AP Photo)

Thuso Khumalo reported this story for VOA News from Durban, South Africa. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

advocate n. a person who argues for or supports a cause or policy : a person who works for a cause or group

ambitious n. having ambition : having a desire to be successful, powerful, or famous

antiretroviral n. medical : acting, used, or effective against retroviruses

invigorate v. to give life and energy to (someone) : reinvigorate to put life and energy back into (someone)

apartheidn. a former social system in South Africa in which black people and people from other racial groups did not have the same political and economic rights as white people and were forced to live separately from white people

call to action n. something such as a speech, piece of writing, or act that encourages people to take action about a problem

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