Zambian President ‘Vows’ to Fight AIDS ‘National Disaster’
Newly elected Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has "vowed" to fight his country's AIDS epidemic, calling it a "national disaster" and promising to examine ways to obtain cheaper AIDS drugs for Zambians, Reuters reports. "I myself will be leading a campaign against AIDS," Mwanawasa said in his first media interview after being sworn in on Wednesday, adding that he would "look at ways to get cheaper drugs to people with HIV/AIDS while increasing awareness about the dangers of the disease." Zambia, a country in which one in five adults is HIV-positive, currently has no national AIDS program. AIDS groups "welcomed Mwanawasa's openness," but said that he "will need to have serious political commitment." The Zambian people will "be watching closely to see if Mwanawasa [will] translate words into deeds," a spokesperson for the Kenneth Kaunda Children of Africa Foundation, an organization founded by former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda to help children orphaned by AIDS, said, adding that they "hope [he] can give AIDS the seriousness it deserves, because the disease is destroying the fabric of the nation." HIV/AIDS is "eroding" Zambia's skilled workforce and food security as professionals, farmers and laborers die from the disease. A draft 2002 state budget, which should reflect Mwanawasa's "priorities," will be presented Jan. 25 to parliament (Esipisu, Reuters, 1/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.