The most recent sltrib.com (24 Nov 2013) has an op-ed piece by Devon C. Hale, assistant dean for international medical education at the University of Utah, on the fight against disease in Africa. He makes excellent points about the nature of the problem. Reporting on a visit in 2003:
The most discouraging day in my career was spent in a small rural clinic in Kenya. That day, 24 people awaited the results of their HIV test. The first patient was a beautiful 23-year-old woman, widowed a year earlier, with two children. Her HIV test was positive. When asked if she or anyone she knew had the $25/month to pay for the treatment, she replied that she did not.
But the article is not all so depressing:
I returned to Kenya in 2007 and found an extensive and vibrant program for the treatment of HIV. What a change! Stories of HIV/AIDS sufferers responding to medication were abundant.
What happened? Money from organizations such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria was being used to combat the three diseases causing so much suffering and death in Africa. The availability of treatment brings with it a powerful feeling of optimism.
So where are we today in 2013?
On Dec 3 there is a donor-pledging meeting for the Global Fund, hosted by the U.S. in Washington, D.C., to continue the fight against HIV, TB, and malaria. To support an accelerated attack on these global pandemics requires $15B over three years. The U.S. share of this commitment should remain $5B. Dr. Mark Dybul, President George W. Bush’s global AIDS coordinator and now executive director 0f the Global Fund, said, “We have a choice: we can invest now, or pay forever.
In my travels throughout rural Uganda (Kenya’s western neighbor), I’ve seen the impacts of HIV and malaria. It is estimated, for example, that there are over 2M orphans in Uganda, the result of disease and wars. For many areas, there is a generation missing.
I’m not a big fan of “W,” but one thing he did get right was his fight against HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases in Africa. America needs to continue to support President Bush’s fight.