Donors to Asian Tsunami Survivors Also Should Give More To Fight HIV/AIDS, U.N. Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Says
U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis on Tuesday during a press conference "lamented" that nations could donate billions of dollars and forgive debt to nations affected by the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami but not do the same for African nations facing large HIV/AIDS epidemics, Reuters/CNN International reports. Lewis said he hopes the relief campaign for victims of the tsunami will mark a "turning point" in the global response to other crises, including the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Reuters/CNN International reports (Reuters/CNN International, 1/19).
"I don't begrudge a penny to Southeast Asia," Lewis said, adding, "But what does it say about the world [when] we can tolerate the slow and unnecessary death of millions whose lives would be rescued with treatment?" Lewis added, "The tsunami must be seen to be the turning point. The publics of the world have shown their desperate concern for the human condition. How long will it take for governments to do the same?" Lewis said that the Paris Club, a group of officials from donor countries, were quick to "espouse a debt moratorium" for countries affected by the tsunami, but the Group of Eight finance ministers have not agreed on a formula for canceling African debt, according to AllAfrica.com. Lewis said that when the G8 meets next month "surely [there will] not [be] an excuse left in the armory of rationalization to prevent the reduction and/or cancellation of African debt." The U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals are "entirely attainable" and the World Health Organization's 3 by 5 Initiative -- which aims to treat three million HIV-positive people with antiretroviral drugs by the end of 2005 -- is "taking hold," Lewis said, adding, "It would be the destructive irony of the century, were the wealthy nations to default on their commitments at precisely the point when the 3 by 5 is within sight, and with it, a cornucopia of hope" (AllAfrica.com, 1/18).