UNAIDS Report Released in Advance of G8 Summit Asserts AIDS in Africa ‘Rolling Back’ Progress in Economic, Social Indicators
The AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa is "undermining fragile economies, overwhelming scant social services and sapping military forces," according to a UNAIDS report released yesterday, USA Today reports. The report was released in advance of today's start of the G8 summit meeting near Calgary, Canada, where leaders of the world's major industrial nations are expected to discuss monetary aid to Africa, among other issues (Sternberg, USA Today, 6/26). "The devastating impact of HIV/AIDS is rolling back decades of development progress in Africa," Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, said in a statement accompanying the report. He added, "Every element of African society -- from teachers to soldiers to farmers -- is under attack by AIDS." The report found that:
- The rate of economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa has fallen by up to 4% because of AIDS and the average economic growth for the region, excluding Nigeria and South Africa, was 3.1% of gross domestic product in 2001 (Agence France-Presse, 6/25);
- By 2010, AIDS-related illnesses are expected to kill about 25% of workers in some African countries;
- Seven million farmers have already died from AIDS-related causes in the region, contributing to a decrease in food production and an increase in famine conditions;
- Approximately 20% to 40% of soldiers in sub-Saharan African countries are HIV-positive, with officers having higher rates of infection. The epidemic affects combat readiness and "threaten[s] the stability and security needed for economic growth"; and
- Dying workers have dramatically decreased tax revenue in some countries, making it difficult for governments to fund social and public services (USA Today, 6/26).
At the G8 meeting, which includes leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States, President Bush has said he hopes to "build support" for his Middle East peace initiative, but Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said he wants to focus on discussions that will "produce agreement on a new plan to increase development aid for Africa" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 6/25). Chretien added that "as head of the host country, he sets the agenda, he controls the gavel," and he has scheduled a "full day" of discussions tomorrow on African aid (Gonyea, "Morning Edition," NPR, 6/26). During the session, the presidents of South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria and Senegal will ask the G8 leaders to agree to a plan outlined at last year's summit that asks for "increased aid, debt reduction and investment" in exchange for implementing detailed education and health care initiatives and a peer-review system to keep track of public health efforts. The leaders have asked for $64 billion in annual aid to meet these goals by 2015 (DeYoung, Washington Post, 6/26). Bush is expected to "tangle" with other G8 leaders in an attempt to defend the United States' monetary contributions to Africa and will likely "resist a push" to give Africa more than half of a $5 billion increase in foreign aid announced in March (Knox, Washington Times, 6/26). The Global AIDS Alliance yesterday issued a report charging that the G8 summit leaders are "turning their backs" on the African AIDS epidemic by providing "woefully inadequate" support for generic AIDS medications and international debt relief (Global AIDS Alliance release, 6/25). An NPR "Morning Edition" report on the G8 summit will be available online in RealPlayer Audio after noon ET today.
While Bush's proposals for worldwide HIV/AIDS spending are "modest," they are a "step in the right direction," Lael Brainard, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, writes today in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece. The G8 summit gives Bush a "tantalizing opportunity to make progress in fighting debilitating poverty," Brainard concludes (Brainard, Los Angeles Times, 6/26). However, the Toronto Globe and Mail states in an editorial that "an opportunity is all [the summit] may be ... [b]arring a significant shift of priorities" (Toronto Globe and Mail, 6/26).
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