Miami Herald Examines African HIV/AIDS Groups’ Efforts To Fight Disease
The Miami Herald on Sunday examined efforts of HIV/AIDS advocates and organizations to wage a sometimes "lonely fight" in combating epidemics in African countries where they receive little support. According to the Herald, many organizations continue to criticize some African governments for failing to devote the necessary time and energy to prevent their populations from contracting HIV/AIDS, as well as treating those who are HIV-positive.
In Zimbabwe, a long-running political feud between President Robert Mugabe and opposition politicians has been a barrier to better care for those living with HIV/AIDS, the Herald reports. Farai Mahaso -- an officer with the HIV/AIDS support group Batanai, whose mother, Auxillia Chimusoro, was the first person in Zimbabwe to publicly declare her HIV-positive status in 1989 -- said many physicians and nurses have fled the country because of fear of political violence and intimidation. "A lot of good personnel leave to go to rich countries," Mahaso said, adding, "We train people, then they leave. I feel the government could do a lot more to help."
According to the Herald, some African leaders are beginning to "get the message." At the recent United Nations 2008 High Level Meeting on AIDS, several presidents pledged to more aggressively fight the disease in their countries. Togo President Faure Gnassingbé said that his country, which has missed two rounds of international funding, needs aid to scale up its efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. Gnassingbé said that he was concerned about how the stigma of HIV/AIDS affects the nation's HIV-positive population and that "[w]e should not add moral suffering to the physical suffering that those with the virus are already suffering."
Mahaso has established international partnerships and is operating centers throughout Zimbabwe that provide counseling and medical supplies through funding from the U.S. and other countries. Mahaso added that his organization in the future plans to open more counseling centers to keep up with the need. According to a U.N. report, about 25 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, which is 64% of the world's entire HIV-positive population (Yearwood, Miami Herald, 6/29).