Protesters in Dakar urged Western leaders to keep their word on AIDS funding despite the economic meltdown.
On the eve of an international conference on AIDS in Africa, the demonstration included giant puppets that caricatured US president-elect Barack Obama and French and EU president Nicolas Sarkozy.
"African children are watching you!" read a banner next to the puppets.
The women's and children's organisations that organised the protest fear a drop in funding as donor countries grapple with the financial crisis at home.
"There is a big financial crisis and we fear that this will impact on the funding given to Africa to fight AIDS," said Ame David, spokeswoman for Save the Children Sweden.
"We want them to keep their promises," said Velepi Riba, a regional programme officer for Save the Children.
"Obama in his nomination speech made the commitment that 50 billion dollars (39 billion euros) would be spent on HIV/AIDS by 2013. Sarkozy has the (rotating) EU presidency and we want the EU to keep up their annual contribution," she said.
The 15th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) will bring together more than 5,000 participants in Dakar to discuss progress in the fight against the disease.
Among those attending will be Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, who won the Nobel prize for medicine this year for her discovery of the HIV virus.
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to nearly 90 percent of all children living with HIV.
Two thirds of the global total of 32.9 million people with the HIV virus, which causes AIDS, live in sub-Saharan Africa and three quarters of all AIDS deaths occured there last year.