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May 10, 2010

The New York Times: The Fight Against AIDS in Africa Is Falling Apart

The fight against AIDS in Africa is falling apart, The New York Times concludes in three detailed articles.

In Uganda, AIDS clinics regularly turn people away. In Kenya, grants supplying 200,000 positive people with medication are about to dry up. And in Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania and Botswana, drug supplies are running out and treatment slots are evaporating.

The statistics reported in the articles paint a devastating picture. For every 100 people put on treatment, 250 contract the virus, according to UNAIDS. Of the 33 million people with HIV worldwide, 14 million require medication now, based on World Health Organization guidelines.

And in Uganda alone, which is considered a bellwether country, 500,000 need treatment, but only 200,000 are getting it. An additional 110,000 people become positive each year.

“I’m worried we’ll be in a ‘Kampala situation’ in other countries soon,” said Ambassador at Large and U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby, referencing Uganda’s capital.

The Times articles explore several factors underlying the crumbling AIDS efforts. The global recession has cut into existing funds. Donors supply about $10 billion annually, but $27 billion is needed to control the epidemic, said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS.

Seeking donations has left Michel D. Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, “hugely frustrated.” He explained: “The consistent answer I hear is, ‘We love you, we hear you, we acknowledge the fund’s good results, but our budget is tight, our budget is cut, it’s the economic crisis.’”

But at the same time, there’s a growing belief that more lives can be saved by fighting other, cheaper diseases such as malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea. “I don’t believe for a minute it’s just the economic downturn,” said Sharonann Lynch of Doctors Without Borders. “I think world leaders feel the heat is off and they’re fatigued.”

Meanwhile, science has failed to produce a viable tool to curb HIV infections: There’s no cure, no vaccine, no microbicide, not even a popular female condom.

Efforts to instill safer-sex practices and HIV education have also failed. Casual sex is on the rise. Misinformation flourishes, and cultural forces keep women from practicing safe sex.

Search: HIV/AIDS, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania, Botswana, treatment, global, recession, funds, World Health Organization, Eric Goosby, Michel Sidibé, Africa, Doctors Without Borders, women, safe sex, education


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