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With 25,000+ participants at the XVIth International AIDS Conference in Toronto, African leadership was visibly absent. Many observed this and many commented at the conference, but Lawrence Atman in his article in the New York Times, "Bright Spots, Lost Chances on AIDS" chastises the International AIDS Society and conference organizers for this lost opportunity, among others.

“To many participants, a significant conference oversight was that no African leader delivered a featured talk, even though Africa is the continent most affected by AIDS. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia canceled her scheduled talk a week before the conference, organizers said. Nevertheless, they found no African backup speaker, leaving non-Africans to talk about Africa’s plight.”

Clearly, the Bills (Gates and Clinton) could have shared the stage with their critical country counterparts who are responsible for directing the use of resources that they (the Bills) can get to their countries. Global leadership on HIV/AIDS must include southern leaders, or there will be very severe costs for and very little impact of the resources that are being poured into HIV/AIDS. More importantly, if “donorship” doesn’t move to “ownership,” affected countries’ leaders will never feel that they have to be accountable for programs that are designed and funded by donors. CGD’s HIV/AIDS Monitor will explore how “big” donor HIV/AIDS programs translate into country specific programs and the role of political leadership will emerge as a critical factor for the successful implementation of an HIV/AIDS program in a given country.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.