A few things to read (snippets posted here; click the links for the full articles):
The situation in Mityana in not unusual; in fact it is far too common. 215 million women worldwide are not using an effective method of contraception despite the fact that they want to avoid pregnancy. The largest segment of these women live in sub-Saharan Africa and many are at risk of HIV. Women account for 60 percent of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, and young women between the ages of 15-24 are up to eight times more likely to be infected than men of the same age.
December 1st marks World AIDS Day and this year’s theme is “Getting to Zero.” Much of this day will be focused on a celebration of new technology and science that can help prevent HIV through daily treatment and male circumcision. And we should celebrate those advances — but we should also not lose sight of women who need both family planning and HIV services.
This year, on World AIDS Day, the scientific promise for the end of HIV is the brightest it’s ever been. We’re seeing radical new uses for antiretroviral drugs – to prevent the transmission of HIV as well as treat its effects. We’re poised, medically, to bring this epidemic to its knees.
In the face of this great opportunity, the global community responded in one voice, “Forget it. We don’t care.” Things are hard all around, you know, and foreigners with HIV don’t vote in domestic elections. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria just canceled its next round of grants. The WHO is laying off staff. Bilateral donors are cutting aid to global health. Instead of breaking the cycle of HIV transmission, developing nations will be lucky if they can protect the people they already have on treatment.
That may sound dramatic, but look at the numbers. The Global Fund asked donors for $20 billion. It received $11.5. Everyone from Germany to the USA reneged on their pledges of support.
MSM [Men who have sex with men] are among the most-at-risk populations in Zambia for HIV and AIDS, chiefly because they are “hidden,” unable to access or ask about health services freely due to prejudice and blatant homophobia in traditional African society. As a result, MSM have a high risk of dying of HIV/AIDS-related illness — a scandalous statistic in an era when many HIV-positive people are living productive and optimistic lives with free modern treatment.
No Retreat in the Fight Against AIDS [Ed: Why yes I am linking to an op/ed by George W. Bush. I can’t believe it either].
In a world where distance no longer provides protection, America and Europe can feel the sudden impact of events far from home. Suffering abroad can be a warning sign of future disorder and conflict—the distant thunder that reveals a gathering storm. It is hopelessness that aids extremists and spreads deadly ideologies. It is in failed states and ungoverned regions where many of the world’s challenges arise. There is no effective way to oppose the enemies of freedom without also opposing the shared enemies of humankind—disease and poverty.
But the developing world, particularly Africa, is not only a place of suffering. It is also a place of opportunity and strategic competition. Many African economies are growing faster than those in the developed world. American engagement is rewarded in growing markets. American retreat would leave a void eagerly filled by others.
Engagement serves our interests. It also reveals our deepest values. No nation can solve all the problems of the world. But a nation that believes human dignity is universal—that affirms that all men and women are created equal—will do what it can. In the U.S., foreign humanitarian assistance, including AIDS relief, represents less than 1% of our federal budget. It is not the cause of our fiscal problems. Reducing our commitment would only succeed in increasing the sum of suffering.
Fighting HIV/AIDS is a goal that can unite nations, as well as people of various political ideologies. It is a cause broad enough to include the medical profession and religious congregations, human rights advocates and pro-life activists. There is work to be done for private companies, nonprofit organizations, government leaders, and even former government leaders. This extraordinary coalition has an extraordinary goal within sight—the creation of an AIDS-free generation.
In lean budget times, the U.S. and the developing world must prioritize. But there can be no higher priority than saving lives. And there is no better way to save lives than to support and expand effective, proven programs such as Pepfar.
Today, PSI announced a new partnership with healthcare diagnostics company Alere Inc to deliver HIV Rapid tests. “An HIV test is a simple and reliable tool for knowing one’s HIV status and, if diagnosed positive, an important trigger for seeking proper care and encouraging one’s partner to get tested,” says Karl Hofmann, President and CEO of PSI.
Alere has set the goal of donating one million tests to PSI through a new social media campaign. Every “like” on Facebook, “follower” on Twitter, or piece of artwork submitted to the campaign’s social media websites will lead to one donated HIV rapid test.
Other great World AIDS Day pieces you’re reading? Link them in the comments.