Senegal Public Health Advocates Worry Country Backtracking in Progress Against HIV/AIDS, Might Waste International Aid
Senegal, which is considered one of the African countries that has "most effectively" responded to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, is facing a "pivotal and worrying moment" as it attempts to provide education and treatment to its residents, the Financial Times reports. Public health advocates are worried that the country might be "in danger" of "sacrificing historical progress made through sensible policy-making, helpful cultural practice and geographical good fortune" and might waste incoming international aid funds, according to the Times. For example, approval and implementation of an antiretroviral treatment program to provide drugs to 7,000 HIV-positive people has been "disappointingly slow," according to the Times. "Senegal can no longer be considered a country at the forefront of the response to HIV/AIDS," a statement released last month by a coalition of five nongovernmental organizations said. AIDS advocates are concerned that the country's successes in fighting the disease will obscure underlying problems, including "significant" regional variation in HIV prevalence and cultural taboos surrounding the disease. In addition, official policy "ignores" the fact that many commercial sex workers are below the legal age of 21, the Times reports. However, the "greatest" fear among advocates is that the government and donor organizations "risk squandering aid money" in an "eagerness" to distribute funds quickly, according to the Times. "Everybody has started asking questions about how the money is being used," Gary Engelberg, co-director of Africa Consultants International, said, adding, "It really is a very critical time." The World Bank, which hopes to distribute $30 million to HIV/AIDS projects between 2003 and the end of 2007, said it is "too early" to "jump to conclusions" about whether its funds for community groups and other NGOs are being well spent, according to the Times. "We see very encouraging elements, but, of course, there are also many problems," a bank official said (Peel, Financial Times, 2/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.