FLORENCE, Italy -- The Seventh International Conference on AIDS is under way with denunciations of U.S. policy and dire warnings dominating the first day.
"In the developing countries we are sitting on top of a volcano," Dr. Vulimiri Ramalingaswami of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences said in last night's opening address.
While the estimated 8,300 delegates heard grim depictions of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome problem in impoverished Asian and African nations, demonstrators from ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and other protesters chanted outside, demanding more money for research.
Inside the Florence meeting hall, the opening ceremonies were interrupted by applause from delegates each time a speaker denounced the U.S policy barring immigration of people infected with the AIDS-causing virus HIV, or attacked the last-minute U.S. decision to reduce by several hundred the number of government-funded researchers attending the conference.
This year's conference opened on a somber global note, with Ugandan President Yoweri Kabuta Museveni criticizing Africa's leaders for their complacency and their original denials of the extent of AIDS infections.
"Now," he said in a speech, "the epidemic has reached catastrophic proportions . . . ."