Opinion Piece Examines PEPFAR, Local Volunteerism in Zambia
Statements that the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief "pulls health professionals away from other fields or that funds might be better spent on other health priorities" make "little sense" in PEPFAR focus countries such as Zambia, where one in six people is infected with HIV, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson writes in an opinion piece.
Although the "ultimate" answer to the HIV/AIDS pandemic is prevention, there is a "massive queue of people who will need treatment," according to Gerson. He notes that the U.S. and other developed countries have addressed the "suffering" of HIV-positive people in Africa by providing antiretroviral drugs and that African societies have responded with a "hopeful social movement." In Zambia, more than 15,000 people from various faith-based groups care for people in 200,000 homes, Gerson writes, adding that some of these "volunteers -- uniformly poor themselves -- bathe patients, sweep the floors, provide fresh linen, distribute food and malaria nets, and take patients to the hospital" on bicycles.
"Not even the miracles of medicine are more impressive than the generosity of the poor," Gerson writes, concluding that "by supporting this movement, PEPFAR is making an important statement: that the next step in the AIDS crisis is not only to provide healing medicine but to help wounded communities heal themselves" (Gerson, Washington Post, 4/11).