Five AIDS Experts Talk About the International Community’s Role in Fighting AIDS in Africa on ‘NewsHour’
PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" correspondent Elizabeth Farnsworth last night interviewed several individuals who have "been involved in confronting the [HIV/AIDS] epidemic worldwide." Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for International Development at Harvard and chair of the World Health Organization's Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, called the global AIDS fund, proposed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "a very big breakthrough," as it marks the "first time the world is getting together in a unified way to fight the three main killer disease epidemics right now: AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria." Wealthy nations, he explained, will "pool their funds for the first time into one global trust fund, countries will make proposals to access that money -- that's both governments and civil society within those countries." Independent experts will review the proposals to ensure "a scientific and evidence-based approach for fighting the diseases. And then finally -- and this is what is still missing -- we'll have the scale of resources to finally confront these diseases," Sachs said. Director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Stephen Morrison noted that the trust fund will be a "source of anxiety and skepticism for some time until it's able to demonstrate some effect. It needs to get a governing structure that works and that is transparent and that is very fast and doesn't interfere with existing mechanisms and brings forward the sort of resources that are out there." Concerning the global mobilization effort to fight AIDS, he said, "It's historic. It's risky. There's a lot of uncertainty surrounding it at the moment but there's also a considerable uncertainty in the most acutely affected countries."
Prevention vs. Care
Dr. Peter Lamptey, executive vice president of AIDS programs for Family Health International, added that he considers disease prevention to be "probably one of the most important needs," but noted that "there is also an urgent and desperate need for care." Dr. Helene Gayle, director of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention who recently announced her temporary move to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, responded, "It's not either prevention or care. It's both. And they need to be integrated. We know from experience that prevention and care actually reinforce each other." Ambassador Sally Grooms Cowal, former deputy director of UNAIDS, said there was a "need for real high-level political commitment. Without that, by all governments overcoming denial where that still occurs, overcoming complacency in places like the United States where that still occurs, we won't really tackle this epidemic until we get that political commitment. It's a real chance for the Bush administration to provide some leadership in a place where it's unexpected." Lamptey called Bush's initial pledge of $200 million to the trust fund "a start, but it's a drop in the bucket. If we get the same response rate, I don't think we'll be able to raise funds to save the people who are dying or to monitor an adequate prevention effort to prevent this epidemic from spreading." Morrison concluded that the "greatest risk" in the effort to fight AIDS in Africa is that "we do not have the results within the next two to three years in Africa in the most acutely affected states. And that creates disaffection and skepticism and the momentum that has been building within Congress and among the American people. ... We have a window of two to three years to take effective action in Africa" (Farnsworth, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 5/21).