Business as Usual: Watching Thousands of People Die Every Single Day
Business as Usual: Watching Thousands of People Die Every Single Day
The plague that’s killed 22 million isn’t done with us yet. While we hunt for a vaccine, people continue to die—from AIDS or the drugs intended to treat it (“AIDS at 20”). “AIDS is not only killing the sick, but also crushing the healthy. There are two kinds of people here, the infected and the affected” (Kristof, “As Millions Die”). Though there are various excuses regarding AIDS funding, political stances, and the debate of whether or not Africa is ready to receive treatment, the fact remains that AIDS cannot sit on the backburner anymore: action needs to be taken now.
First, the question of funding; the cost of drugs has been a major issue in the treatment of AIDS. The estimated spending on AIDS prevention, care, and support in low and middle income countries in 2003 is $4.7 billion, while the estimated dollars needed to address AIDS care, prevention and support in low and middle income countries is $6.5 billion in 2003 alone, with an additional $10.5 billion in 2005 and $15 billion in 2007 (Avert). In part because of those inadequate funds, many countries will not meet basic goals like rapidly expanding AIDS prevention and care expected to them by 2005. Perhaps if America wasn’t spending an extra 87 billion dollars on futile efforts in Iraq, they would have more money to spend on the dying. “If pockets had been opened earlier, millions of lives would have been saved” (“Slowly, the Virus is Being Fought”).
There are also many various political stances regarding AIDS; President Bush pledged $15 billion for AIDS in African countries and the Caribbean over the next five years. But instead of $3 billion for the first year, he backtracked to just $2 billion (Kristof, “Prudery”). And instead of using existing channels to help, Bush created a new bureaucracy. Now the White House and Congressional Republicans argue that since the bureaucracy is not ready, dying patients must wait (“Betraying the Sick in Africa”) Bush’s Christian administration is also fumbling the AIDS initiative by requiring that one-third of AIDS prevention funds do nothing but encourage sexual abstinence until marriage despite the separation of church and state. “This is the kind of stipulation set by people who sit in Washington and have never actually set foot in an African village” and therefore those politicians have no idea what the sexual, let alone cultural practices and norms are. (Kristof, “Prudery”). Meanwhile, in those African villages, every family has seen a brother or a sister, a close relative or a neighbor dying from Aids given the 22% HIV infection rate. There are people like Nigerian Abigail Obeten and her child who are being abandoned by their husbands and churches when it is discovered that they are HIV positive (Allafrica.com).
Officials are arguing that AIDS money cannot be spent wisely because the office of the AIDS coordinator and Africa are not “ready” (“Betraying”). Some doctors, politicians and pharmaceutical executives argue that it is unsafe to send millions of doses of antiretroviral drugs to Africa, for fear that incomplete pill taking will spread the mutation of drug-resistant strains of the disease that could spread around the world (McNeil). However, contrary to prejudices that cloud the campaign to bring AIDS drugs to millions of people in Africa, evidence is emerging that African AIDS patients are better at following their pill regimens than American AIDS patients are (McNeil). Surveys done in Botswana, Uganda, Senegal and South Africa found that on average, AIDS patients take about 90 percent of their medicine. The average figure in the United States is 70 percent, and it is worse among subgroups like the homeless and drug abusers (McNeil). Granted, it’s incorrect merely to say, “Distribute anti-retroviral drugs, problem solved,” (Barringer). Providing drugs is only part of the solution. Consumption of adequate vitamins, minerals, and protein is crucial to maintaining the body’s immune system. Still, with inadequate funding, political red tape, and the question of whether or not Africa is ready, above all, the question is, why is very little being done?
“From a public health perspective, we need to treat at least three million people by 2005 to avert an enormous catastrophe, we cannot wait any longer” (Altman, “W.H.O.”). However, the first report card on the United Nation’s two year commitment to defeat AIDS gives the world’s countries generally low marks in their efforts to overcome ignorance about the disease and provide access to prevention and treatment measures (Altman, “Countries”). The declaration of commitment adopted in 2001 by 189 countries intended to halt and reverse the AIDS pandemic by 2015. It was regarded as the turning point in the global response to AIDS and recognition that the epidemic was a threat to the security of many countries (Altman, “Countries”). United Nations members agree that defeating AIDS would take commitment, resources and action (Altman, “Countries”). They also agree that the 2005 goals can still be met but only if significantly greater and sustained commitments to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic are realized. “This is the time to act because it is much cheaper to prevent an epidemic from exploding when health officials deal with a smaller than larger number of infected people,” (Altman, “Countries”). “We must change the way we think and change the way we act, business as usual means watching thousands of people die every single day,” (Altman, “W.H.O.”).
Because of the pattern of new infection rates, the disease shows no sign of slowing and the current trajectory of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is unlikely to change quickly (“Debate” and “Governments as Facilitators or Obstacles in HIV Epidemic”). The United Nations estimates that 42 million people are infected with AIDS, and without an expanded response, an additional 45 million will become infected by 2010 (Altman, “Countries”). In response to these figures, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said that AIDS is, “more devastating than any weapon of mass destruction” (Altman, “Countries”). With nearly one-sixth of the world’s population estimated to be infected within the next seven years, isn’t it time that we demand action?
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