AIDS in Africa could reach pandemic perportions:
The HIV/AIDS scourge on the African continent could worsen in 2006 if developed nations do not deliver on their financial pledges, the U.N.’s top AIDS official in Africa said on Monday.
Stephen Lewis, U.N. special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, said treatment, prevention and care programs on the continent will start losing out next year if rich nations do not release the money they have promised.
Quoting figures from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Lewis said it has only received $3.6 billion, half of what it needs to fund programs in 2006 and 2007.
"There’s a steadily diminishing lack of commitment on the part of the world to release money for the Global Fund," said Lewis.
Africa is the worst-hit continent with an estimated 26 million people infected with HIV/AIDS.
Four million of the infected have been identified as needing urgent treatment, but so far only 10 percent of them have access to treatment, Lewis said.
Some of you may recall that in his 2003 State of the Union speech, Bush promised an initiative to send aid to help fight this problem. In fact, the White House website highlights the problem and solution:
Today, on the continent of Africa, nearly 30 million people have the AIDS virus – including three million children under the age of 15. There are whole countries in Africa where more than one-third of the adult population carries the infection. More than four million require immediate drug treatment. Yet across that continent, only 50,000 AIDS victims are receiving the medicine they need. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief will help the most afflicted countries in Africa and the Caribbean wage and win the war against HIV/AIDS, extending and saving lives. The following countries will be the focus of the initiative: Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
But sadly, the Bush Administration is making it harder for relief to get to parts of Africa. And why? Because the Bush Administration doesn’t approve of other peoples’ behavior:
The Bush administration has extended its global gag rule to international AIDS prevention funding, according to the Maryland-based Center for Health and Gender Equity. The gag rule will affect a $193 million, five-year project for AIDS-HIV prevention programs in Kenya and requires organizations that seek funding to adhere to the administration’s policy that the health organization not provide abortions, provide any information about safe abortions to women or lobby for change in their nation’s abortion laws. In Kenya, complications from illegal abortions are a leading killer of married women in their 20s and 30s.
Family planning, maternal and child health programs are the "first responders" for women and girls who have HIV-AIDS, who make up 60 percent of infected cases in sub-Saharan Africa, said the center’s executive director, Jodi Jacobson. "The administration has broken its own written commitment not to subject global AIDS funds to these onerous restrictions."
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