U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa ‘Aghast’ at Connection Between Hunger, HIV/AIDS in Africa
U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis on Wednesday during a speech at the Global Health Council's annual conference in Washington, D.C., said that he was "aghast" at the way in which "AIDS was deepening hunger and hunger was deepening AIDS" in Southern Africa. According to Lewis, Africa "reaps what the world sows, and with a vengeance." He said that while weather and food shortages have played a "powerfully destructive role" in the situation, HIV/AIDS is at "the heart of the matter." Lewis said that the disease is taking its toll on the "productive age group" of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, compared with previous famines that primarily affected the very old and the very young. Lewis said, "In the present circumstance, even where sound policies are in place, the coping strategies of communities and families are so mangled and eroded by AIDS that full recovery simply isn't possible." On one side there is the "poisonous interaction" of hunger and AIDS, and on the other the "debilitating interaction" of agriculture and weather, which Lewis said represents a "cyclical pattern of Western neglect and self-centeredness, juxtaposed with African disasters and death." He added, "These problems must be seen as global, in every sense of the word. So must the solutions be global." Lewis said that he believes that the member nations of the G8, which is scheduled to begin its annual summit on Sunday in Evian, France, "will leave the [Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] limping into next year, unable to deliver on its promises, and on the huge human expectations which hang in the balance." Lewis concluded that right now, "everything is stop-gap, everything is ad hoc, unless the pandemic itself is turned around" (Lewis, Speech text/AllAfrica.com, 5/28).
Brazilian National AIDS Program Receives Gates Foundation Award
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Wednesday announced that the Brazilian National AIDS Program will receive the 2003 Gates Award for Global Health. The $1 million award was scheduled to be presented yesterday during the GHC conference (Gates Foundation release, 5/28). Brazil's program, which among other things provides free antiretroviral drugs, has become a model for the developing world. The country negotiates discounted pricing for the drugs or, if unable to negotiate a satisfactory price, begins local production of generic copies of the drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/21). Dr. Nils Daulaire, GHC president and CEO, said, "[T]he Brazilian National AIDS Program broke the logjam in the debate over AIDS treatment. Brazil showed the world that what was thought to be impossible -- treating people with AIDS in a developing country -- was indeed possible in the context of a comprehensive AIDS program, and that effective prevention and treatment efforts are enormously and mutually reinforcing." Dr. William Foege, senior fellow at the Gates Foundation and chair of GHC's Board of Directors, said, "Brazil has shown that with perseverance, creativity and compassion, it is possible for a hard-hit country to turn back its AIDS epidemic." Dr. Paulo Teixeira, director of the Brazilian National AIDS Program, said, "We are so thankful for this recognition of Brazil's commitment to the basic human rights of people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. ... The Gates Award will help Brazil show the world that it is possible to provide care and prevention in developing countries" (Gates Foundation release, 5/28).
A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of other speeches and sessions from the GHC conference will be available online on June 2 at 5 p.m. ET.