Worldwide Summit Honors Local Effort in Battle Against AIDS

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UC Berkeley Boalt School of Law students spoke about their work with the Sri Lankan government to fight the AIDS epidemic at the fourteenth annual international AIDS conference this week.

The conference also honored Berkeley Rep. Barbara Lee for her service at the conference.

The five-day conference, which ends today, was held in Barcelona and drew 15,000 participants from countries around the world.

The AIDS Lanka project, a collaborative effort between UC Berkeley law students and Sri Lankan organizations, focuses on awarding publicly funded AIDS treatment to the people of Sri Lanka.

Members of AIDS Lanka persuaded the government to allocate part of a $10 million dollar loan from the world bank to HIV/AIDS treatment last May.

Project organizers said they hope the financial victory will inspire future success stories in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Though Sri Lanka is not in a crisis, project organizers said they chose the country because it is in danger of an AIDS epidemic.

"The reason we picked (Sri Lanka) was because we thought, here is an opportunity to make a difference in a place that wasn't in a crisis, but all indicators were that one is looming, and to help them become a success story. I think we have achieved that," said professor Laurel Fletcher, acting director of the International Human Rights Clinic at the law school.

AIDS Lanka organizers attributed their success to the project's unique international collaboration.

The Berkeley-based members of AIDS Lanka will transfer most of the project into the hands of a Sri Lankan organization.

"Getting the door open was a major challenge," Fletcher said. "The baton has passed back to the local (non-governmental organizations) to continue to work with government to see service provided in a consistent and humane manner."

The Family Health International Institute honored Lee at the conference for her dedication to the fight against AIDS.

Lee has sponsored a number of bills in Congress to increase funding for worldwide AIDS relief and attended international AIDS conferences.

She co-sponsored the Global AIDS and Tuberculosis Relief Act of 2002 and the Global Access to HIV/AIDS Prevention, Awareness, Education, and Treatment Act of 2001, which allocated $535 million to the global AIDS trust fund.

"I am deeply humbled and also thrilled to receive this award," said Lee in a statement. "The people who really deserve this award are those who are on the front-line in the battle against HIV/AIDS."


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