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An Ontario doctor whose young daughter died from meningitis in west Africa is challenging Canadians to give up a day's pay to help fight the continent's AIDS pandemic.

Dr. Jane Philpott, founder of the Give a Day to World AIDS campaign, said her child's death gave her insight into the suffering of Africans and impressed on her the profound impact a single day can have. "I'm not the only mother in the world who knows what heartache one day can carry," she said. "We [also]know that a day can make a difference in a brilliantly positive way."

Dr. Philpott, a 45-year-old family physician who spent nine years working in Niger in the 1990s, began the campaign in 2004 among doctors at a hospital in Markham, just north of Toronto.

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That first year raised $33,000 for World AIDS Day, held on Dec. 1. Last year, her campaign raised $100,000 at eight area hospitals.

Now, several prominent law firms, business people, teachers, unions and others have taken up the challenge and Dr. Philpott is hoping the campaign takes off. The money raised so far might seem like a drop in the bucket, given that AIDS has decimated entire communities on the continent where more than 24 million are infected, but Dr. Philpott said Canadians have to start somewhere. "We can't get overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem."

Money raised will go to Dignitas International and the Stephen Lewis Foundation, two organizations that work to ease the suffering caused by AIDS in Africa.

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