Africa Action: Letter to Friends and Supporters, 06/07/01

Africa Action: Letter to Friends and Supporters, 06/07/01

Africa Action: Letter to Friends and Supporters Date distributed (ymd): 010607 APIC Document

Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List: an information service provided by AFRICA ACTION (incorporating the Africa Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American Committee on Africa). Find more information for action for Africa at


Note to Distribution List Readers

At the end of this month the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on HIV/AIDS will convene in New York. Africa Action will be represented both in the NGO parallel meetings to the assembly and as a sponsor of the June 23 Stop Global Aids Now march and rally.

In the last preparatory meetings for UNGASS, NGO participants who had been actively involved in pushing for a stronger draft declaration (see the on-line discussion at were virtually ignored by most official country delegates; at one point the U.S. delegation even insisted on exclusion of NGO representatives from meeting rooms.

You are already aware that despite victories such as withdrawal of the pharmaceutical company suit against South Africa, the obstacles to addressing the pandemic are still enormous-and linked to fundamental structural inequalities both within and between nations. That is why Africa Action is launching a campaign for 'Africa's Right to Health.' You will hear more as the launch date of June 24 approaches.

Many of you who receive our information regularly are already supporters of Africa Action, or supported one of our three predecessor organizations in the past. We need your continued support.

If you are among those who receive and use our information but have not yet been able to support us with your contribution, please consider doing so now.

Please read the letter and attached press release below. Use the enclosed form or go to to make your contribution. Contributions to Africa Action, a 501(c)(3) organization, are tax-deductible.

- Salih Booker


June 4, 2001

Dear Friends,

"We will do what we can," Secretary of State Colin Powell told Kenya AIDS activist Patricia Ochieng when confronted with demands that the U.S. provide more funds for AIDS treatment and support generic drug competition. Powell later said he would go back and make a case in Washington for more resources, and try to convey the passion he had heard on his trip.

Yet to the extent the Secretary of State does work for a more substantial response to this and other African priorities, he faces formidable obstacles from within the very administration he serves. The fact is that responding effectively to the AIDS crisis will require not only enormous increases in resources but also fundamental changes in the way U.S. and international policymakers view Africa and the world. It requires acceptance of Africa's right to health and a global obligation to address the structural inequalities that perpetuate violations of this and other universal rights. The administration to date is moving in precisely the opposite direction. To cite only a few points:

* In commenting on the UN's draft declaration on AIDS, to be considered at a special session of the UN this month, the Bush administration declared it cannot "accept a rights based approach to HIV/AIDS -- any more than it can accept a rights based approach to food, shelter or hunger."

* In the UN Human Rights Commission meeting in April, the U.S. alone abstained on an otherwise unanimously supported Brazilian resolution affirming "that access to medication in the context of pandemics such as HIV/AIDS is one fundamental element ... of the right to health."

* The initial U.S. response to Secretary-General Kofi Annan's appeal for a $10 billion fund for the current global health emergency was to announce a $200 million pledge, less than a tenth of the minimum U.S. commitment needed and 500 times smaller than the first-year tax cut pushed through Congress at the same time.

Confronting the greatest health emergency in human history should not be an optional charitable response, coming at the end of the line after tax cuts, military budget increases and other subsidies to the rich. Instead, human rights for all should come before minority profits.

Africa Action responded to the President's announcement on May 11 by issuing the press release below and joining AIDS activists outside the White House in protest. By being ready to respond, we ensured that tens of millions of people heard a challenge to the administration's public relations gesture. We were quoted in the Associated Press, Reuters, Financial Times, National Public Radio, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, as well as on National Public Radio and other radio programs in Chicago, Calgary and other cities.

Last month I and other Africa Action staff were on CNN International, Public Radio International, and a score of other media outlets, commenting on Secretary of State Powell's trip to Africa, HIV/AIDS, peacekeeping and other issues. Despite resistance from many media gatekeepers to hearing alternative points of view, we are opening up new opportunities to convey the message that human rights apply to Africa and all humanity, not just the rich. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is not only the greatest health emergency in human history. It also starkly reveals the inequalities that fuel it. It reveals how the right to health--and to life itself--is apportioned by race, gender, class and country of birth.

In our campaign for Africa's Right to Health, being launched at the end of this month, Africa Action will demand the equal right to treatment for HIV/AIDS. With AIDS activists, we will insist that both treatment and prevention are imperative. And we will also make the links to the structural obstacles blocking Africa's right to health: illegitimate debt that has not yet been cancelled, undemocratic international financial institutions that impose economic policies putting profits before people, the historical legacy and present reality of racism, sexism and stigmatization of those with HIV/AIDS.

There are many excuses for inaction. An unnamed senior Treasury Department official, for example, recently told the New York Times that Africans lacked a "requisite concept of time" to benefit from treatment (see our letter to the Secretary of the Treasury demanding that this official be identified and disciplined at Behind the excuses lies the failure to acknowledge our common humanity and our obligation to defend the universal right to health.

When I last wrote you in March, pharmaceutical companies were still pressing their suit against South Africa to block more affordable drugs. Confronted with worldwide protest, they were forced to back down. This victory is only a beginning. We cannot stop now. We need your support more than ever to help push back the obstacles to Africa's health.

It is quite literally a question of life and death. I hope we can count on your support.

In Struggle,

Salih Booker

P.S. This month I will be in in California meeting key local activists in the leadup to the "Africa's Right to Health" campaign launch in New York on June 24. We urgently need your renewed support to build the campaign. If you have already sent in a contribution recently, please pass on the message to recruit another supporter for us.



May 11, 2001


Contact: Ann-Louise Colgan, (202) 546-7961 Aisha Satterwhite, (212) 785-1024


White House Announcement on Global Aids Funding Equals Death Sentence for Millions of Africans

Friday, May 11 (Washington, DC/New York City) - Africa Action today denounced the Bush Administration's proposal to contribute a meager $200 million to a global fund for HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases now being established through the United Nations. Responding to the White House' announcement that it would contribute only $200 million dollars for the proposed $10 billion U.N. fund, Salih Booker, Executive Director of Africa Action, said "In the face of what will soon be the worst plague in human history, it's tragic that the richest country in human history is unwilling to contribute its fair share to finance the solution!" Booker added that, "Underfunding this U.N. initiative means writing off the lives of millions of Africans and others living with HIV and AIDS, but signing death sentences especially for black people is nothing new to this president!"

The proposed U.N. initiative aims to unite disease-prevention efforts and the provision of life-savings medicines in a new effort made possible by the recent drop in prices for anti-aids drugs. The price reductions themselves are the result of the growing protests of anti-aids activists worldwide, and the market forces recently transformed by the entrance of developing country producers of generic versions of the previously expensive Western-patented antiretroviral drugs. The proposed fund also represents an effort to act upon the emerging global consensus that the world's AIDS crisis is solvable if patent laws are adjusted to ensure access to affordable medicines and if patients are provided appropriate treatment and care supported by adequate global funding.

For two decades, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has raced ahead of the global response. Over 50 million people have been infected, and 17 million have died in Africa. Although there is yet no cure, antiretroviral drugs can now turn a certain death sentence for millions into years of productive life. According to Africa Action President, Wyatt Tee Walker, "The failure to prevent such deaths, when the means are available, will increasingly be recognized for what it is, the equivalent of mass murder." According to Africa Action, AIDS is more than a disease, it is a manifestation of a Global Apartheid whereby access to the full spectrum of Human Rights, including access to healthcare, is largely determined by race, gender and class.

Addressing a protest in front of the White House, Booker said, "The White House doesn't care about the Black Death! AIDS is the black plague, its epicenter is Africa, the region with the next highest infection rate is the Caribbean, and here in the U.S. the region ranked third infection rates are increasing mainly among people of color. Though AIDS knows no borders and does not discriminate by race, at present it is mainly killing black people. And that is the cruel truth of why the White House is unwilling to respond with the needed resources." Booker added, "Tomorrow's headlines ought to read: President Bush to Africa: Drop Dead!'"

Africa Action, the oldest advocacy organization in the US concerned with African affairs, will launch a campaign for "Africa's Right to Health" during the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in late June aimed at changing U.S. policies.

Africa Action advocates the following:

o African countries must be freed of the burden of foreign debt so that they can allocate more of their own resources on healthcare.

Presently most African countries spend more on repaying "debts" to rich countries than on healthcare for their own citizens;

o Countries must also be free to exercise their full rights to obtain essential drugs at the lowest-possible cost, including the use of generic manufacturing and imports.

o Major increases in funding are also essential. Cost estimates vary for the different components of a full-scale response to the global health emergency. Treatment for the estimated 2.4 million Africans infected with HIV who could benefit from antiretroviral treatment, according to one recent estimate, would cost approximately $2.7 billion a year. UNAIDS estimates at least $3 billion a year for needed prevention efforts in Africa. Add in treatment of related diseases, necessary health infrastructure development, and costs in other developing regions such as India and China where the pandemic is beginning to spread more rapidly, and the total required easily falls in the $15 billion to $20 billion a year range. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for a global fund of a more modest amount of $7 to $10 billion a year to support a broad developing world campaign against the AIDS pandemic.

Even the highest figure, however, is less than one penny out of each ten dollars of the gross national product of the world's rich countries. It is a small price to pay to save millions of lives. It is a also a prudent investment, because failing to pay that price will result in untold human suffering and profound economic collapse that will ultimately require even greater expense. The $200 million announced by President Bush is equal to the price for one F-22 fighter jet, and less than 1% of the proposed $1.35 trillion tax cut that will mostly benefit the richest 1% of Americans. Africa Action proposes that the U.S. set aside 5% of the budget surplus each year to help finance global public health efforts such as the proposed AIDS initiative. Booker stated that, "Such an approach would send a signal that the U.S. shares a sense of global responsibility rather than regarding globalization only as an opportunity for corporate profit."

He added that, "Africa Action believes that the real question is how much inequality are we prepared to accept in the world today?"

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How to Contribute to Africa Action

(1) By credit card (Visa or Mastercard)

You may submit your contribution on our secure web site (go to Or you may send in the form below by e-mail to, by fax to 1-202-546-1545, or by post to Africa Action, 110 Maryland Ave. NE, Suite 508, Washington, DC 20002, USA.

(2) By check or money order (in US$)

Print out the form below or from the web ( Fill it in and send it by post, along with your check or money order, to Africa Action, 110 Maryland Ave. NE, Suite 508, Washington, DC 20002, USA.

Note: To return this form by e-mail, either "reply" with message included or "copy and paste" to a new e-mail message. Fill in the brackets with X or the appropriate information. Then send to


Dear Salih,

Here is my contribution to fight global apartheid and advance Africa's right to health.

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Africa Action is a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by U.S. law.


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Message-Id: <> From: "APIC" <> Date: Thu, 7 Jun 2001 11:21:27 -0500 Subject: Africa Action: Letter to Friends and Supporters

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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