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At AIDS Conference, More Efforts Urged to Empower Women

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Prevention is a central issue being discussed at the sixteenth International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada. Twenty-four thousand delegates are at the conference which ends Friday.

Bill and Melinda Gates called for faster research to develop preventions like microbicides for women to use when they have sex. The hope is that such products could protect against infection with the virus that causes AIDS.

Melinda Gates said the way to "change this epidemic" is to put power in the hands of women. In southern Africa, for example, about sixty percent of adults living with HIV are women.

Bill Gates said women today often have no choice but to depend on men not to infect them. "A woman should never need her partner's permission to save her own life," he said as the conference opened Sunday.

The world's richest man said "stopping AIDS" is the top priority of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

On Monday, former President Bill Clinton said more people would get tested for HIV if an aggressive effort took place to fight the stigma. But reducing fears of social rejection is not enough. Mister Clinton said people also need a guarantee they would get medicine to suppress the virus.

Researchers at the conference presented the results of a new study of HIV testing. It involved more than one hundred thousand people tested in California last year. Some received a quick test, with results in about twenty minutes. The others received a test that is more commonly used; the results take two weeks.

The researchers say twenty-five percent of the people who had the longer test did not return to learn the results. But that was true of only two percent of those who had the quick test.

George Lemp of the University of California led the study. He says quick tests could be especially important in developing countries with limited transportation.

Speakers at the AIDS conference also discussed high rates of new HIV infections among black Americans. Julian Bond is chairman of the NAACP, a leading civil rights group. He said African-Americans must, in his words, "face the fact that AIDS has become a black disease."

Public health officials say half of all new HIV infections in the United States are in blacks. African-American delegates at the conference said they will prepare a five-year plan to reduce infection rates and increase testing.

And that’s the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. All of our weekly reports can be found at I’m Steve Ember.