Africa: AIDS, Recent Statements, 09/01/00

Africa: AIDS, Recent Statements, 09/01/00

Africa: AIDS, Recent Statements Date distributed (ymd): 000901 Document reposted by APIC

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Region: Continent-Wide Issue Areas: +economy/development+ +US policy focus+ Summary Contents: This posting contains (1) a reminder of the on-line discussion on AIDS being hosted by the Economic Commission for Africa, (2) an op- ed piece by APIC/Africa Fund director Salih Booker in the August 28, 2000 edition of the Boston Globe, entitled "Use the Surplus to fight AIDS", and (3) testimony at a post-Durban congressional briefing by Chatinkha Nkhoma. Another posting today contains references to a variety of new reports and links on HIV/AIDS, as well as the announcement of a new Africa-wide network AFREHET (African Network for Family, Reproductive and Environmental Health Research, Education and Training).

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REMINDER: As previously announced, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is hosting its second Africa Development Forum (ADF) entitled, AIDS: The Greatest Leadership Challenge, now re- scheduled in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for 3-7 December. An online discussion preceding the ADF was launched on 1 July 2000.

As most of you know, the publicity surrounding the World AIDS conference held in South Africa in July has come and gone. The question now is whether Africa and the world will continue the sense of urgency that was communicated at that gathering. Whether or not you are among those who will gather in Addis Ababa for the next major African conference dedicated to the issue, you can help maintain the momentum by contributing your insights to the on-line discussion. The results of the discussion will be brought to the attention of conference participants and communicated to African policymakers and governments.

Although the discussion started in July, one can join at any time. The remaining sessions before the Forum are being moderated by APIC's Jean Sindab Fellow Karin Santi. A full archive of previous contributions is open for review by visitors as well as participants. If you want to focus greater attention on the need for more urgent action, don't miss this opportunity to speak out.

To join the list, please send a message to:

You may also sign up on the web, or read messages already posted, by visiting:

The full archive is open for you to read, whether or not you sign up. However, in order to post messages to the discussion, you must sign up as a participant.


Use the Surplus to Fight AIDS

By Salih Booker

Boston Globe 08/28/2000 Page: A15 Section: Op-Ed

Salih Booker is director of the Africa Policy Information Center in Washington and the Africa Fund in New York.

The recent US proposal to lend Africa $1 billion a year at commercial rates for the purchase of antiviral AIDS drugs is a cruel hoax at best and a vivid example of government-subsidized corporate greed at worst.

The plan aims to protect American pharmaceutical companies threatened by African rights under the World Trade Organization's rules to pursue parallel imports and compulsory licensing of anti-AIDS drugs. In other words, the US government is prepared to push Africa further into debt in order to prevent Africans from getting cheaper drugs from Brazil or India or from licensing local firms to produce generic versions at home.

African governments already spend more on debt repayment to wealthy nations than on their own countries' health and education combined.

The International AIDS Conference recently held in Durban, South Africa, generated tremendous news coverage as a sort of rediscovery of the AIDS pandemic and convinced the Clinton administration that they needed to do something beyond yet another meager request for additional funding for AIDS programs. Setting up a debt financing program through the Export-Import Bank requires no funding from Congress and offers dramatic headlines because of the price tag.

But the news out of Durban was not new. This was the 13th annual event, and no government can claim that it never saw the AIDS plague coming. Mind-boggling estimates of the spread of HIV were available more than a decade ago. But because Africa has become the epicenter of the pandemic, the world is not yet willing to act.

Africa is facing a deadly plague while prosperous Western countries spend huge amounts of money on finding cures for baldness and obesity. The continent is home to an estimated 80 percent of the world's HIV/AIDS population.

This crisis is a stark reminder of the double standard that has marginalized African lives for the past 500 years and that now divides the world between rich and poor, white and black. At the moment, support from international donors to fight AIDS worldwide is estimated at $300 million a year. An effective budget for prevention alone in Sub-Saharan Africa would require about $3 billion.

Yet as US politicians line up to debate how much of the surplus to spend on tax cuts, the option of allocating a significant part of the surplus to fighting AIDS is not even on the table. Because the victims are predominantly black, the wealthy, predominantly white countries fail to respond with more than token resources.

Almost none of the people affected by AIDS in Africa have access to the life-saving drugs that have brought hope to millions of patients in the West. This is far more than a health issue: AIDS is wiping out large portions of the work force and crippling national economies. More people may die of AIDS in Africa than died in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam combined.

Multiple strategies to fight the epidemic are available and can make a dramatic difference even in the worst-affected countries. Prevention strategies, from AIDS education to condom distribution, do work when they are implemented on a large scale. This has been amply shown in countries such as Uganda and Senegal. A comprehensive strategy also requires restoring basic health services, which have been slashed throughout Africa. And it must include steps to promote women's rights and change male attitudes, since a large proportion of AIDS patients in Africa are women infected by men.

Making affordable drugs and treatment available rather than restricting them to patients in rich countries is a moral imperative. It is also essential for prevention. Effective prevention requires public willingness to be tested, but as a South Africa AIDS activist recently remarked, why go to the doctor if you know in advance that the medicine cupboard will be bare?

Cancellation of unpayable debts could enable African countries to dedicate higher proportions of their budgets to combating AIDS. Here again pledges from rich countries are not matched by action when budget decisions are made.

US decision makers have not broken out of the business-as-usual budget process that regards spending on global health as an afterthought at best and any spending on Africa as wasteful. The result is that tens of millions of human beings, overwhelmingly Africans, are written off as expendable.

In this election year, candidates for president and for Congress should consider dedicating a modest 5 percent of the annual budget surplus - approximately $9.5 billion a year - to a global health emergency fund. This would still fall short of the effort needed, but it would be a leap above the paltry $325 million in President Clinton's current request to Congress for HIV/AIDS worldwide. And it would send a signal that US politicians share a sense of global responsibility rather than regarding globalization only as an opportunity for corporate profit.

The United States hesitates at its own peril, for the only thing more dangerous to humanity than AIDS itself is the double standard.


Post Durban Congressional Briefing

Statement by Chatinkha Nkhoma

[reposted from discussion list (formerly See]

Capitol Hill Rayburn House Office Building - 26th July 2000

Last year, around this same time I was in this same building, testifying at a hearing on AIDS in Africa. Since that time, many things have happened. Money has been pledged; Many initiatives have emerged; Some pharmaceutical companies have made some positive gestures by offering reduction to the cost of AIDS medications;

Sadly though, during this same period, AIDS has continued to wipe out my family, my community, nation and continent. In just this year, the number of members of my family who have died from AIDS has risen from 15 to 23. That is 8 in only one year. With parents dying, the number of orphans has also continues to rise. Under these circumstances, Children are losing their only protection, Mothers, Orphans become domestic slaves, sex slaves, and street beggars. The situation is so overwhelming for families, communities and even the governments; things have gone so out of hand.

Africa is not only losing the generation dying of AIDS, but the next generation will be of orphans and the continent will no longer belong to Africans.

So even after I had my application for a scholarship to Durban rejected. Even though I am in constant excruciating pain from this bone-debilitating AIDS condition, I struggle to get to Durban, excited because I imagined that this conference being held in Africa, where we are dying in alarming statistics would surely bring salvation. I had to be there. Because for me, AIDS is not about academic, it is not a career, or a duty, or a science, or politics, or profits. It is real. It is within me and around me every second. I want it to go way because it is hurting me.

I had expected and believed that the AIDS conference held in Durban, Africa was not going to bring more pledges and talk, but real solutions. It would be the beginning of the end of our suffering.

Instead presentations after presentations, Africans were blamed for their suffering, Criticized for dying, African women insulted, called prostitutes for being poor and selling their bodies to feed their children and millions of the orphans. So African women had to close their legs to stop AIDS.

We were told that Africans had bad sexual habits and unless we change our behaviors, our culture, our customs, until we stopped being Africans, we would continue to die. We were told that become sexual angels first to get help, But American and Europeans did not have to become sexual angels to contain AIDS and stop its killings, they were given access to treatment.

What happens to the millions of us already infected? Are we being condemned to death?

We kept hearing once again, that the reasons AIDS was claiming our lives was because we are poor, yet because of this same poverty, we are denied access to life. When did it become acceptable to eliminate the poor? It is not OK to let people die because they are poor. It is not humane. This conference must have costed double digits millions, money which could have at least bought painkillers to allow us die in dignity. So it is not because of money are dying, it is about International racism.

Treating millions of Africans may seem so overwhelming we want to throw up our hands and say, "it is impossible" But we must remember that the number keeps increasing. AIDS will not go away on its own. It will not go away even if we stop having sex. It will keep killing and killing and killing.

AIDS is a Global public Health emergency. It started with one person and crossed all boarders, all the barriers, artificial and real. Manmade and natural. And unless we, as the human race, remove the same barriers as well, the racial barriers, economic barriers, social barriers, academic barriers, we will not conquer it.

We must remember that AIDS has no other physical appearance except the one you are see here. AIDS looks like me, feels like me, I AM AIDS. You cannot get AIDS unless human like me give it to you. So by condemning me, you are not protecting yourselves. By condemning Africa, the whole world is not SAFE. I shudder every time I see how science has turned humans against humans instead of working for the good of humans

As Africans, we don't want your wealth, or your power, or your might. We just want an opportunity to live longer, healthier, productive lives. An opportunity to love and raise our children, and not leave behind as orphans but young adults to continue looking after Africa.

Africa's debt is a staggering 227 billion; lending us more billions keeps us in the shackles of poverty and misery. Canceling the debts can give us an opportunity to break the chain of the dependency theory. We must do it.

Give us an opportunity to live and allow us to buy or produce cheaper generic drugs by canceling the debt.

Having AIDS Drugs is not a symbol of prestige and wealth, it is an opportunity to live.


Chatinkha C. Nkhoma 676 Houston Avenue #304 Silver Spring, MD 20912 301-589-7717


Message-Id: <> From: "APIC" <> Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2000 12:54:13 -0500 Subject: Africa: AIDS, Recent Statements

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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