Rich Nations’ Failure to Fund Fight Against AIDS Equals ‘Mass Murder by Complacency,’ U.N. Envoy for AIDS in Africa Says
The world's richest nations are committing "mass murder by complacency" by failing to contribute enough funds to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa, and they may one day face repercussions for their "crimes," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis said yesterday in a press briefing, the Associated Press reports. Lewis noted that in April 2001, Annan called for between $7 billion and $10 billion annually for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, but so far the fund has received only $2.1 billion. Lewis urged the Group of Seven major industrialized nations, made up of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, to make new contributions to the fund, noting that African leaders have become "increasingly committed" to combating AIDS. "We could prolong and save millions of lives if we had the resources. We don't have the resources," Lewis said (Lederer, Associated Press, 1/8). He noted that U.N. figures estimate that 70 million people will die over the next two decades, mostly in Africa, due to complications related to AIDS, adding that "the time for polite or even agitated entreaties [is] over" (Loepold, Reuters, 1/8). Lewis also said that a war with Iraq would "eclipse humanitarian efforts" worldwide. "Wars divert attention, wars consume resources, wars ride roughshod over external calamities," Lewis said. He added that the "ripple effects" of a war with Iraq would come at a "crucial juncture" in the fight against AIDS, as "endless numbers of initiatives and projects and programs and models" are being implemented and could "save millions of lives" with the help of more funding (Goldman, Los Angeles Times, 1/9). Lewis hinted that rich nations' failure to contribute more funds could one day be considered criminal. "This pandemic cannot be allowed to continue, and those who watch it unfold with a kind of pathological equanimity must be held to account. There may yet come a day when we have peacetime tribunals to deal with this particular version of crimes against humanity," Lewis said (Associated Press, 1/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.