Former President Clinton says it is crucial for the United States to contribute its share to a $10 billion annual United Nations fund to fight AIDS. 

Writing on the opinion page of The Washington Post, Clinton said his recent travels in Africa have convinced him that "we can prevail against this terrible scourge." 

He praised U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan for making the fight against AIDS a personal priority. 

"For mounting this bold and important initiative, he deserves our praise," the former president wrote. "Our support can make a difference. We can cut the death rate substantially just by furnishing simple medicines that stave off opportunistic diseases — for instance, tuberculosis, which accounts of 50 percent of AIDS-related deaths in Africa. 

"It is essential that the United States commit its share of the war chest — approximately 22 percent of the total, equivalent to about 1 percent of the recently passed tax cut," Clinton continued. 

"To shirk the responsibility is to abdicate America's timeless role as a beacon of hope and promise. Moreover, we can afford to devote these resources. The price of neglect will be far higher over the long run." 

Clinton's article in Sunday's editions of the Post came on the eve of the first U.N. special session on AIDS. The disease has claimed more than 22 million victims and left 36 million others facing a death sentence.