Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Rounds Up Commentary on U.N. Special Session, Other AIDS-Related Issues
In newspapers throughout the country, editorials and op-eds continue to comment on the U.N. General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS and other AIDS-related issues. The following is a summary of the comments, arranged by the day of the week the article appeared.
- New York Times: "The world cannot underestimate the threat of AIDS, but it would be equally wrong to fall into despair," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan writes in a New York Times op-ed. He states that the world has "more reason for hope [now] than we have had in the last 20 years" because "poor and middle-income countries" can implement prevention and treatment strategies and political leaders in Africa have "faced up to the problem as never before." Annan concludes that the "proper strategy" for attacking HIV/AIDS includes prevention strategies, treatment for HIV-positive people, more HIV testing, additional research to find AIDS vaccines and "protection" for children orphaned by the epidemic (Annan, New York Times, 6/25).
- Washington Post: "We all have AIDS. ... The earth has AIDS," Donald Berwick, president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, writes in a Post op-ed. Berwick states that no lines should be drawn between some members of the population and others, saying that because AIDS affects a portion of humanity, it ultimately affects the entire human race. He writes, "Successful, life-prolonging management of HIV infection is not simple. ... But it is a mistake to ignore the role of medications." He adds that the world "needs free anti-AIDS medicines," and calls on the heads of pharmaceutical companies to provide them. "The devastated nations of the world need AIDS medicines at no cost at all, or, at a bare minimum, medicines available at exactly their marginal costs of manufacture, not loaded at all with indirect costs or amortized costs of development," he writes, adding that drug company executives could realize this in "one simple action." He states, "No one could stop them; none would dare try. For the small profit they would lose, they would gain the trust and gratitude of the entire world" (Berwick, Washington Post, 6/26).
- Guardian: The "concept" of the global fund is "inherently flawed" because "a global fund would need to be channelled through a new, top-heavy global administration, [while] the key to tackling HIV/AIDS in poor countries is to start at the bottom, not the top," Mark Curtis, director of policy for Christian Aid, writes in a Guardian op-ed. In addition, the global fund is "a distraction from addressing the poverty upon which HIV/AIDS thrives," he writes. He concludes, "If the global fund gets the go-ahead in New York, in all probability it will prove to be yet another false dawn for the poor. In the meantime, leaders at the U.N. meeting will enjoy the kudos of being seen to be doing something about AIDS. In truth, however, they will be dressing the window without stocking the shop" (Curtis, Guardian, 6/26).
- USA Today: The Global AIDS and Health Fund allocates a large chunk of funding toward providing anti-AIDS medicines to HIV-positive people in African nations, but the lack of doctors and nurses in African nations and other problems with the health care infrastructure on the continent will hamper efforts to deliver these drugs, a USA Today editorial states. The editorial says that "none" of the money pledged for the fund is earmarked for health care infrastructure, adding that without such infrastructure, AIDS drugs "can't get to patients." The editorial concludes, "[U]ntil donors tackle the fundamentals of building clinics and training staff, the AIDS juggernaut will thunder on" (USA Today, 6/26).
- Chicago Tribune: A Chicago Tribune editorial states that efforts to discuss AIDS prevention strategies become "bog[ged] down in the disease's connection to sex and drug addiction, topics that unnerve some people." The editorial concludes, "[I]f [health officials] can't even talk about [AIDS] openly, how are these countries or the United Nations ever going to devise an effective battle plan against the disease?" (Chicago Tribune, 6/26).
- San Francisco Examiner: The Bush administration, "holding hands with the pharmaceutical industry," has "floated a smokescreen over the U.N. special session on the global AIDS crisis that clouds the economic and medical issues of staggering death in Africa," San Francisco Examiner Associate Editor Warren Hinckle writes in an op-ed in that paper. The global fight against AIDS is "degenerating into a familiar set piece of the haves versus the have nots," with the goal of raising $10 billion for the Global AIDS and Health Fund "already melting like an ice cream in the summer New York heat." Hinckle writes that Henry McKinnell, who was a "point man" on the U.S. delegation to the conference and also the chair of PhRMA and CEO of Pfizer, stated that Africa does not have the infrastructure to administer AIDS medications to its HIV-positive population. Hinckle notes that the "Bush administration's push on AIDS is to emphasize far cheaper 'prevention' policies," adding that "[i]f the infrastructure doesn't exist to take a pill, it doesn't exist to teach about condoms." Hinckle concludes, "Maybe ... Bush and big pharma don't want to get the drugs there at all" (Hinckle, San Francisco Examiner, 6/27).
- Wall Street Journal: The economic and human "toll of AIDS on sub-Saharan Africa is at once incomprehensible and chilling," but "gestures" such as those made at this week's General Assembly session "will not affect the spread of the disease in Africa," George Ayittey, a professor at American University and president of the Free Africa Foundation, writes. Ayittey states that the Declaration of Commitment drafted at the conference is "an essentially rhetorical document" and the money pledged by governments and corporations may "merely [be] the expression of good intentions" and may not ever materialize. He states that African governments and AIDS activists should not focus on "pressur[ing]" pharmaceutical companies to provide cheaper AIDS medicines, since African health care infrastructures are not adequate to deliver them. He concludes that the tactic of concentrating on gaining discounts for AIDS drugs "not only distracts attention from the delivery and prevention aspects of combating the disease, but also shields African governments from responsibility for its lightning, and lethal, spread" (Ayittey, Wall Street Journal, 6/28).
- Hartford Courant: "If lives are to be saved, it will take unprecedented cooperation among governments, foundations, civil society and industry to agree on priorities, strategies and specific goals" for fighting HIV/AIDS in the developing world, Michael Merson writes in a Hartford Courant op-ed. Merson, dean of the Yale University School of Public Health and former director of the World Health Organization's Global Program on AIDS, states that to tackle the epidemic, all involved must develop new prevention methods, such as microbicides and vaccines, promote sexual equality and commit "resources of an unparalleled scale" (Merson, Hartford Courant, 6/28).
- Newsday: Although delegates at this week's U.N. conference agreed to drop language referring to homosexuals, intravenous drug users and prostitutes as "vulnerable" populations, "[a]ll societies have wrestled with ... questions" of morality and sexuality, Newsday columnist Joseph Dolman writes in an op-ed. He states, "In the end, the diplomats wisely decided to punt on a few crucial issues in an otherwise fine document" (Dolman, Newsday, 6/28).
- Washington Times: "[W]hatever money is given to Africa [to fight HIV/AIDS] must be allocated with care, and there are many necessary prerequisites to obtain that aid," a Washington Times editorial states. The editorial says, "Funding to Africa is necessary and urgent. However, it must follow the lead of governmental and cultural reform. Wars must end, infrastructures must be built and attitudes must change. Then, as a joint effort, real progress can be made" (Washington Times, 6/28).
- Orlando Sentinel: Colin Powell's promise to increase the United States' contribution toward the Global AIDS and Health fund was a "welcome" announcement, an Orlando Sentinel editorial states. Such support by political leaders is important in fighting the epidemic, the editorial says, adding, "Short of a cure, the best chance that people have against AIDS lies in the efforts of political leaders and others to educate. They must do a better job" (Orlando Sentinel, 6/28).
- Guardian: In a letter to the Guardian, Mark Curtis of Christian Aid writes that world governments should dedicate 0.7% of their Gross National Products to "combat" HIV/AIDS. The priorities of these resources should be to "strengthen health systems" and "support local ... care and prevention programs." Noting that the United Kingdom will donate to the global health fund, Curtis writes "the world's HIV/AIDS sufferers need more than giant PR exercises" (Curtis, Guardian, 6/29).
- Philadelphia Inquirer: In an Inquirer column, Trudy Rubin writes that the special U.N. assembly on AIDS should have been held in Brazil, because it is the "only developing country that has found a successful formula to combat the AIDS menace." Infection rates in Brazil are below predictions due to three principles: "committed" political leadership, "heavy" involvement of civic and community groups and "cheap" HIV/AIDS medication. However, because Brazil has a public health system, such a "model may be out of reach" for Africa. Until African nations develop a public health system, they can "adopt Brazil's first two principles of top-down, bottom-up leadership to push prevention and develop a health network." Rubin concludes, "Without such leadership, no amount of cheap drugs will do any good" (Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/29).
- Washington Times: In his Washington Times column, Wesley Pruden writes than the U.N. declaration on AIDS is a "high-sounding" decree on a disease that has killed 22 million people worldwide, a number "dwarfed by [those] taken by cancer and heart disease." Pruden writes that the United Nations is "trying to ... reprise the hysteria of a decade ago when, we were confidently told, everybody would be dead by now." In describing the media coverage and activist commentary on the disease, Pruden says, "It was a civic duty to regard smoking as a form of suicide, but mean and hateful to warn that sodomy was folly." Now that AIDS is again being described as a "Holocaust," Pruden concludes, "AIDS is a horrific disease, and Africa needs a lot of help from grown-ups. But it doesn't need the hysteria" (Pruden, Washington Times, 6/29).
- Newark Star-Ledger: The "commitment" made by the nations that attended the U.N. special session to "fight" HIV/AIDS will be a "waste of words" unless the wealthy countries of the world, "particularly the United States, provide the funding to put the plan to work," a Star-Ledger editorial states. In addition to the "humanitarian call" to fight HIV/AIDS, the editorial says that the disease has the "potential" to cause "economic and political chaos." As HIV/AIDS is becoming the "great moral challenge of our age," the "first steps" against the disease will require funding. Noting that the House International Affairs Committee has worked out a plan to spend more than $1.3 billion on a variety of HIV/AIDS initiatives, the editorial concludes: "Congress and the President must make good on the pledge. And the world will be grateful if they do" (Newark Star-Ledger, 6/29).
- New York Daily News: Although the United States has already pledged "millions" to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa, "without even more aid, Africa will be decimated" by the disease, a Daily News editorial says. While "commend[ing]" the United Nations for "confronting this scourge," the editorial concludes: "While some are still in denial about AIDS' global reach, the numbers of dead, dying and infected do not bode well for Africa, or the world. Africa must have resources to fight this war" (New York Daily News, 6/29).
- Wall Street Journal: Western nations and the United Nations do "no favors" for Africa by not discussing the "root cause" of HIV/AIDS transmission in Africa, which is "almost entirely the result of promiscuity," a Journal editorial states. The editorial says, "If you have relations with only one healthy partner, you don't get sick. This awkward fact makes everybody concerned with Africa's AIDS epidemic squeamish." Noting that the disease in America's gay community was "curtailed" by "individual self-control and plenty of latex," the editorial says that "Africans can avoid HIV" without money from the West or condoms. "It just takes sexual fidelity," the editorial says. The editorial concludes that "personal responsibility ... will save more lives in Africa than an oil tanker's worth of antiretrovirals" (Wall Street Journal, 6/29).