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Clinton, Gates stress better spending on AIDS patients

VIENNA - Two heavy hitters on the world health stage - Bill Clinton and Bill Gates - called yesterday for a more efficient fight worldwide against the AIDS virus.

In separate speeches at an international AIDS conference in the Austrian capital, the former president railed against spending too much money on reports that just sit on shelves and urged that funds directly target AIDS sufferers. Gates, the founder of Microsoft Corp., said health groups must adopt better business practices that deliver more bang for the buck.

Clinton said many countries are misspending foreign aid. He said funding should go directly to local organizations, because developing countries can deliver health services at a lower cost and less overhead than established organizations.

"In too many countries too much money goes to pay for too many people to go to too many meetings, get on too many airplanes," Clinton said. "Keep in mind that every dollar we waste today puts a life at risk."

The number of people taking crucial AIDS drugs climbed by a record 1.2 million last year to 5.2 million overall, the World Health Organization said yesterday. Between 2003 and 2010, the number of patients receiving lifesaving antiretroviral treatment increased 12-fold, according to the Geneva-based body.

"We are very encouraged by this increase. It is indeed the biggest increase that we have seen in any single year," said Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO's HIV/AIDS department.

Clinton also called on aid groups to remember that the world was "awash in trouble" because of the impact of the financial crisis.

Gates said although finding new funding was critical, "we can do more to get the most benefit from each dollar."

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