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December 01, 2003

World AIDS Day

Here in the US, we continue to make noise about the horror of AIDS and continue to search for a cure to the disease. Most of us, though, live sheltered from the true horror of AIDS running wildly through a society with few checks and almost no chance of even the medicated survival that we have here.

In the US, HIV infection is something that can be lived with and controlled over a long period of time. The effects can still be devastating, but those infected are leading longer and healthier lives. Throughout Africa, that isn't the case.

I'm not one who thinks that the entirety of our GDP should be leveraged to find a cure or to fund poor countries. I think that the money being spent and the money that has been promised are appropriate. Throwing more money at a problem doesn't always solve it--time and the hard work of relief workers and doctors, hopefully, will.

Still, I think it's important to look at the cost--and the faces of the afflicted--to understand why it's so important to keep up the fight and the search for a cure.

The Scotsman Magazine has an article today that fills that purpose.

Aids in Africa is a catastrophe without end. It has killed 18.8 million people worldwide since the early 1980s, but the majority of deaths - 16 million - have been in Africa. Drugs now exist to treat people with HIV, but in Africa they are not readily available.

The United Nations estimates there are now 34.3 million living with the virus - 24.5 million of those live in sub-Saharan Africa. Millions more, possibly hundreds of millions more, will become infected. In Malawi, one of the poorest African countries, the official HIV prevalence rate is 16 per cent among the 15 to 49 age group. It is higher elsewhere: Botswana (35 per cent), Zimbabwe (25 per cent), Lesotho (23 per cent) and Zambia (20 per cent). In South Africa, half of all teenagers are estimated to be HIV-positive.

By contrast, Britain has a 0.11 per cent prevalence rate.

I remember when AIDS was first being understood here in the states. The fear over methods of transmission and the incredible lethality of the disease were overwhelming. We believed that AIDS was on a path to utterly ravage our population. It didn't quite happen that way.

While AIDS has taken its toll here in the states, it hasn't been the plague that we thought it was going to be. Aggressive education for prevention and treatment helped contain the spread and to make infection less deadly. Sub-Saharan Africa, though, has seen almost precisely what the rest of us feared we would face. That doesn't make it a uniquely African problem, though.

The effect that AIDS has on African nations--in the decreased economic output, the overstressed (and already minimal) health facilities, and the contribution to political instability--effects us here in the West, as well. As we try to help African nations overcome poverty, political churn, and a sore lack of education, our work is undermined by the continued attack of AIDS.

There is certainly a cap on the amount that can be spend on one problem in hopes of solving a puzzle--especially when the world still faces other medical crises. But the money we see spent to combat and prevent AIDS is not wasted; it is going to a good fight that will hopefully see a cure to this most horrible disease.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at December 1, 2003 10:20 AM

The key is to keep the money out of the hands of the kleptocrats, and in the hands of legitimate NGO's and other medical organizations. The initial release of funds to Zambia seems like a good start. I would like to see Uganda on the early list, as well. South Africa should do penace before they get a dime, unfortunately. They have a most pressing problem, however until they admit HIV causes AIDS it's hard to see how any funds would be well spent.

Posted by: Velociman at December 1, 2003 07:06 PM

The question I want answered and that nobody ever really addresses openly (or from what I have read/seen/heard) is why the infection rate in Africa is so monumentally larger than in the US and other western countries.

The desease is transmitted through simple processes that make it difficult to transmit (relatively speaking) through straight sex. So why is it so prevalent in the Hetero population there and not here?

I've heard that anal sex is much more commonly practiced there. I've heard that is a common method of birth control.

Is that true? Or is there some other practice that results in blood exchange? It is not simply a case of unprotected sex (that is common in the US as well).

Frankly, I suspect that there is a reluctance to address these questions for various social and political reasons. This crisis will never be resolved until they are.

Of course I could be wrong.

Posted by: BBridges at December 3, 2003 08:36 AM

Tell you what, I'll put together a piece that addresses just that issue. Velociman points out one of the problems in South Africa in particular.

It's an excellent question and all the efforts to reign in the problem of AIDS won't bear fruit until there is an honest appraisal of the source of the problem.


Posted by: zombyboy at December 3, 2003 11:29 AM

Very good website, nice !

Posted by: Telecharger logiciel at June 26, 2004 03:19 AM
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