UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
Africa: HIV/AIDS Emergency
Date distributed (ymd): 000216
Document reposted by APIC
Issue Areas: +economy/development+
This posting contains a press statement and open letter from the DC AIDS Network, calling for a continental state of emergency to combat AIDS. In addition to measures directly focused on AIDS, the statement highlights the need for primary health care and for debt relief, in order to enable Africa to deal with this crisis. It calls for African and international response on a far greater scale in order to address the severity of what the letter terms a "Holocaust."
For additional background information on-line on HIV/AIDS and Africa's Health in general, consult the Africa Policy Web Site health page (http://www.africapolicy.org/action/health.htm). For more information on the DC AIDS Network, write to the Network at the e-mail address and postal address cited below.
16 February, 2000
An Open Letter to African Heads of State, Political and Religious Leaders calls for a Continental State of Emergency to Combat the AIDS Holocaust
DC AIDS Network can be reached via e-mail at DCAIDSGROUP@hotmail.com or by writing to DC AIDS Network, 6017 Cairn Terrace, Bethesda, Maryland 20817.
Washington DC [DC AIDS Network]: In an "Open Letter to African Heads of State, Political and Religious Leaders on the AIDS Holocaust" released today to coincide with the opening of the National Summit on Africa in Washington DC (February 16-19, 2000), the DC AIDS Network, a Washington DC-based advocacy group for Africa, has called for the declaration of an "AIDS Continental State of Emergency" to combat the effects of the deadly disease. Evoking memories of the devastating effects of the 15th-18th Century Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the letter decried the "extraordinary silence on the part of the overwhelming majority of African political leadership in the face of mass destruction of Africa from the AIDS virus" and urged immediate action to stem the pandemic. It described as "anemic" the $300 million pledged so far by the US government on the AIDS war in Africa when compared with the $16 billion war, refugee and drug combating efforts in Kosovo and Colombia, and therefore called for "an international African response [to be] be built to urge, cajole and demand that Africa receive the same level of international response from world governments, the pharmaceutical companies and health care industries."
Among several recommendations made to the African leaders, the letter called for an initiation of an "international Black family debate and coversation" on the AIDS subject and re-prioritization of African government expenditures towards AIDS prevention; pressure on US pharmaceutical companies to allow for more affordable drugs; debt forgiveness of African countries to free up resources to address the AIDS crisis; the building of easily accessible health care centers to prevent and treat opportunistic diseases which make HIV/AIDS more deadly; the establishment of national AIDS Funds; massive education campaigns to stem apathy towards the deadly disease; and special care of orphans of AIDS, with emphasis on providing housing, education and health care for them.
Released February 16, 2000 to coincide with National Summit on Africa, Washington, DC February 16-19, 2000
An Open Letter to African Heads of State, Political and Religious Leaders on the AIDS Holocaust
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
We, the living descendants and survivors of Africa's earliest contact with the Western world and Africans living in America appeal to you. We, the peoples of the Diaspora, whose ancestors once thrived in the territories that are now known as Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Cameroon, the Congo and Senegal and all of the nations that were depleted by the unspeakable trade in our African family members implore you to declare an AIDS Continental State of Emergency.
In the late 15th century, European nations declared war on sovereign African nations. That war is commonly referred to as the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. According to Black scholars, such as Drs. Cheikh Anta Diop and Walter Rodney, over 50 millions Africans were affected by the violent and forced removal of men, women and children from our beloved continent. This trade of African citizens to the western world was the largest transfer of technological knowledge in human history.
In spite of the fact that we were stripped of our citizenship, no act of war or European trade in African populations, can diminish our love of Africa or separate us from the spirits of our unknown relatives, who may now be suffering or at risk of contracting the AIDS virus. On their behalf and in the spirit of Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, the father of Pan-Africanism, Presidents Julius Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah, we appeal to you for concrete action in defense of the orphans, widows and future generations of Africans who will succumb to this virus. Just as Africa's population was decimated, and political and economic contra-forces unleased a downward spiral setting African development back by two centuries, so it is with AIDS. This pandemic, uncontrolled, will set Africa back again. The time to act is now.
We have been confounded and mystified by the extraordinary silence on the part of African political leadership, in the face of mass destruction in Africa from the AIDS virus! How does one explain, in the context of the AIDS holocaust that not a single African Head of State attended the 1999 World Conference on Aids held in Lusaka, Zambia - not even the President of Zambia? How will history record and justify this deafening silence as millions of African peoples face certain death, entire families destroyed and millions of children orphaned? Thousands of years of indigenous agricultural, medicinal and cultural knowledge may vanish forever.
We, however, congratulate courageous African leaders who have begun to act, resulting in a reduction in the growth rate of HIV/AIDS in Uganda and Kenya. We gratefully acknowledge the establishment of national AIDS councils in several countries, most recently in Nigeria.
History often teaches painful lessons - but we fail to learn at our own peril. The lives of Black people have been forever devalued when compared to the lives of whites. One can only imagine the scale of international intervention if 5,000 French or English people were dying of AIDS daily. The international community spent $1.50 per day for each refugee in Kosovo, but responded quite differently to the conflicts in Sierra Leone and Rwanda by allotting the daily expenditure of only 11 cents per day per refugee.
The United States has recently proposed a new investment of $150 million dollars bringing the total financial commitment to approximately $300 million to help Africa fight the AIDS crisis. Many of these dollars will be paid to pharmaceutical companies that have held Africa hostage to costly drugs and legal advisors over patent protection laws while millions of people die. Consider that the US spent approximately $15 billion to support the war efforts in Kosovo and recently provided $1 billion to Columbia to assist their drug intervention efforts. An anemic $300 million from the US for the AIDS war on the African continent is indeed meager.
The present US foreign policy towards Africa can not claim to have human rights, justice or the interest of the impoverished majority as one of its centerpiece concerns. President Clinton, during his recent and historic trip to Africa vowed that the US would never allow conflict in Africa to escalate to the order of the Burundi/Rwanda massacre-scale without the US attempting to intervene in some positive way. Since that trip, Angola, Sierra Leone and other countries have descended on a downward free-fall, without the US even attempting to give lip service to the notion that African people are equivalent on the scale of humanity to Europeans.
An international African response must be built to urge, cajole and demand that Africa receive the same level of international response from world governments, the pharmaceutical companies and health care industries. But first, the international Black family, especially Black churches and associations, must organize and respond to this holocaust. We demand equity with the white world in the distribution of relief. It would be a secondary tragedy of unparalleled proportion for Africa to wait for the US or Europe to respond.
As the European and American public joyfully celebrates the dawn of the 21st century with unprecedented financial stability and wealth, Africa is facing one of its most devastating challenges - survival. Africans and Africans of the diaspora must assume new responsibilities in the unprecedented war against AIDS.
The Problem: ------------
As you are aware the scope of this holocaust is beyond human comprehension in the magnitude of its devastation. For example:
* The AIDS crisis is draining Africa of its best and brightest workers, farmers, school teachers and children, indeed of its very future and existence. More than 5,000 people with AIDS die each day in Africa and epidemiologists expect that figure to climb to approximately 13,000 by the year 2005.
* Within the next 10 years, it is projected that there will be 40 million AIDS orphans in Africa. That is roughly equivalent to twice the US Black population. These children often have to leave school to become care givers for their parents.
* AIDS orphans are at risk for all forms of abuse, including prostitution and pornography, placing them also at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
* As you are aware, in Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and many countries in Africa - business managers factor death rates from AIDS into their hiring practices - by expecting to lose two out of three workers within a short period of time.
* Food production, particularly in Southern Africa has been impacted by this crisis, for example, maize production in Zimbabwe declined by 61% last year due to illness and death from AIDS.
* AIDS is causing funeral homes to remain open 24 hours a day in certain countries in order to meet demand. The environment is being adversely impacted. Deforestation is taking place, not because of energy needs, such as housing or fire wood, but coffin production. It has become the highest growth business sector in many countries.
We realize that the problems of Africa are enormous. Civil society has paid a heavy price for the fragility and volatility of the African economic, environmental and political millieu - civil wars, famine, desertification, land mines, poor educational systems, military intervention and corruption. Yet, the AIDS virus threatens to wipe out an entire generation of Africans. We recognize that the war against AIDS is not a traditional war replete with guns, tanks and landmines. This war is much more insidious but no less deadly.
* We ask you as leaders of the African world to initiate an international Black family debate and conversation on a subject which includes poverty, sexual mores, rape, debt and sustainable development as the essential elements of the AIDS crisis. In addition, a discussion should take place on re-prioritizing African government expenditures towards AIDS prevention education, safe drinking water and primary health care rather than acquisition of guns and submarines.
* We must work together to pressure US pharmaceutical companies to release African countries from austere intellectual property and patent right laws in order to produce generically-cheaper AIDS drugs. Initially, US government officials warned African countries against such activities. We believe that it is morally indefensible for the US government to impose arbitrary restraints on African leaders in their quest for affordable AIDS drugs.
* In addition, we are convinced that debt forgiveness will contribute significantly to the ability of African countries to amass the resources to address the AIDS crisis and other issues of development. We support the establishment of a fund designed to address the issue of AIDS.
* We are demanding that Africa is treated on an equal parity with European nations in the distribution of relief support.
* We urge you to build Health Care Centers within easily accessible locations in both urban and rural areas, with adequate staffing to prevent and treat diseases, such as cholera, tuberculosis, STDs, malaria etc. that weaken the human immune system thereby increasing susceptibility to HIV/AIDS.
* We urge African leaders to establish AIDS Fund through solicitation from indigenous and international philanthropists to stem the surge of this holocaust. This Fund should be managed by leaders internationally respected for their selflessness and integrity.
* We urge to embark on a mass education campaign to stem the apathy towards this deadly virus. In addition, we are asking you to challenge the faith-based communities to mobilize time and resources to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of those afflicted with the HIV/AIDS.
* The problem of orphans of AIDS and their sexual exploitation in pornography and prostitution should receive immediate and effective attention. Efforts should be made to provide housing, education and health care for AIDS orphans.
Let us assume this awesome task of reconstruction and development for the African continent and her peoples of the diaspora for the sake of generations yet unborn. We believe that this noble undertaking, at the dawn of the 21st century, will represent a qualitative advancement in the cause of human civilization and restore and invigorate historic bonds. We thank you for your consideration.
Respectfully and with Warmest Regards,
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
Chairman, DC AIDS Network, Washington, D.C.
Dr. Bolaji Aluko
Chairman, Department of Chemical Engineering, Howard University
Secretary, DC AIDS Network
Chair, Nigerian Democratic Movement
Minister Dr. Segun Adebayo
Director, Church Outreach
DC AIDS Network
Mr. Mark Harrison
General Board of Church and Society, The United Methodist Church* (for identification purposes only) Washington, D.C.
Dr. Jeanne Tougara
Department of History
The Honorable Kango Lare-Latone
President, Global Contact, Washington, D.C.
Reverend Emory Searcy, Jr.
Call to Renewal/Sojourners
Reverend Alice Davis
Call to Renewal/Sojourners
Mr. Acie L. Byrd, Jr.
Human and Civil Rights Activist, Consultant Washington, D.C
Ms. Nicole Christian
DC AIDS Network
Dr. Mohammed El-Khawas
Professor of History/Political Science
University of the District of Columbia
To endorse this letter, and for further information or to get involved, please send an e-mail to DCAIDSGROUP@Hotmail.com or write to DC AIDS Network, 6017 Cairn Terrace, Bethesda, Maryland 20817
Message-Id: <200002170333.WAA04996@server.africapolicy.org> From: "APIC" <email@example.com>Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 22:23:33 -0500 Subject: Africa: HIV/AIDS Emergency
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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