AIDS Compromising Africa’s Social, Educational, Political Future
HIV/AIDS will continue to affect the economic, social and political structure of Africa unless the developed nations of the world, along with African governments, allocate more funding toward fighting the epidemic, Chinua Akukwe and Melvin Foote of the Constituency for Africa write in a Foreign Policy in Focus brief. Foote, who serves as president and CEO of CFA, and Akukwe, a CFA board member, write that at least 10% of the population in 16 African countries have HIV, and in these countries almost 80% of all deaths among individuals ages 25 to 45 will be "directly linked to AIDS." The virus is also taking its toll on the continent's health care system -- by 2005, it is estimated that between 8% and 25% of doctors on the continent will die from AIDS-related infections. Thus, the construction and sale of coffins is one of the fastest growing industries in southern Africa. One-fourth of women in southern Africa have HIV, and in some countries, between 10% and 20% of teen girls have the virus. The spread of the virus among young women may "revers[e] decades of slow but steady progress in female education," since HIV-positive girls are "more likely than boys to drop out of school." African military troops are also affected by the disease -- in some countries, 15% to 20% of those in the military are infected with the virus. Travel by military troops, along with other mobility through migrant labor and shifts from rural to urban centers, "exacerbates" the spread of HIV. The article notes that although African social services and economies are "imploding from the deadly consequences" of HIV/AIDS, "political instability and violent conflicts keep many African governments from focusing on the AIDS crisis." However, this instability "will likely intensify as AIDS gobbles up scarce human and economic resources," the article states.
Stepping Up AIDS Funding
Akukwe and Foote write that the United States must step up its funding directed at fighting the epidemic and must also urge debt relief initiatives for developing nations affected by HIV/AIDS. They write, "The immediate goal of a reinvigorated U.S. policy should be the dismantling of all legal and logistic obstacles to the provision of affordable drugs to all Africans living with AIDS," adding that the U.S. government should "work closely" with drug firms to "ensure that all obstacles to speedy and effective delivery of AIDS medicines to poor nations are eliminated." They urge the United States to adopt the pledge: "No African Man, Woman, Child or Infant Should Be Denied Access to Lifesaving AIDS Drugs by December 2002." However, African nations must do their part, they write, adding that "even today, very few African nations match their AIDS rhetoric with commensurate budget allocations," although Uganda and Senegal are "prominent exceptions." Akukwe and Foote criticize the "corruption and the squandering of scarce national resources" currently occurring in some African countries, stating, "Government spending on wars, white elephant projects and persecution of political and economic opponents is still rife across the continent." The United States and African governments need to work together, they write, to ensure that the leaders of developing nations allocate more funding toward anti-AIDS efforts and engage in "pluralistic political and multisector campaigns against AIDS." In addition, efforts must be made to "end corrupt practices that siphon foreign aid and investments," and promotion of community-based health programs is also needed. Akukwe and Foote conclude, "A strong case can be made that the AIDS pandemic in Africa represents a direct threat to U.S. national interests and national security because of associated political instability, economic downturn and the intercontinental spread of infectious diseases. In the end, however, U.S. citizens and U.S. policymakers face a moral imperative and should ask: Have we done all we can to save 25 million fellow human beings from an avoidable death?" (Akukwe/Foote, Foreign Policy in Focus, May 2001).