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remorse, but some hope in Africa on AIDS Day
December 01, 2005
(Reuters) - Rage and remorse marked World AIDS Day in Africa on
Thursday as the continent worst hit by the global crisis remembered
millions of deaths in a pandemic that even new drug treatments are
doing little to slow.
AIDS patients criticised political leaders for failing to come to
grips with the disease and the international community for doing
too little to help.
has been earmarked for HIV/AIDS has gone into everything else but
AIDS," fumed Meris Kafusi, a 64-year-old AIDS patient in Tanzania
who only recently began receiving life-prolonging antiretroviral
that say they are dealing with AIDS are always in seminars or workshops.
They should be buying food for widows and orphans ... but instead
of that, you find them earning daily allowances of $50 for sitting
in a room discussing us. Is this fair?"
Some two decades
into the epidemic, sub-Saharan Africa remains ground zero for worldwide
HIV/AIDS deaths as well as for new infections -- a calculus of misery
that has already cut life expectancy in many countries, left millions
of children orphaned and reduced agricultural output in hungry countries.
The latest U.N.
estimates say 26 million of the 40 million people infected with
HIV worldwide live in Africa, and that Africa saw about 3.2 million
of the almost 5 million new infections recorded in 2005.
Jack Yong Kim,
the director of the HIV/AIDS department at the World Health Organisation
(WHO) who was visiting the tiny African kingdom of Lesotho for AIDS
Day, said Africa's pain was due in large part to lack of proper
treatment and care efforts are too episodic, ad hoc, and lack the
intensity, pace and rhythm needed to make an impact," he said in
Lesotho on Thursday
sought to boost its AIDS campaign by launching a door-to-door drive
to enlist the kingdom's entire population for voluntary HIV tests.
But in Swaziland
-- which shares with Lesotho the grim distinction of having the
world's highest adult HIV prevalence rate at some 40 percent --
King Mswati scrapped AIDS Day entirely in order to concentrate on
other royal duties.
introduction of ARVs, the only treatment proven to slow the progress
of AIDS, is beginning to have an impact in Africa although officials
say the drugs are only reaching 10 percent of the African patients
who need them.
Botswana, which pioneered public ARV treatment, said on Thursday
it had enrolled almost 55,000 people on the drugs -- making it one
of the few African countries to meet its national target.
In South Africa,
which with some 5 million HIV infections has the highest single
caseload in the world, ARVs were credited with cutting the number
of deaths of HIV-positive babies at one Johannesburg orphanage to
just eight in 2005 from 51 in 2002.
to live, the pain they have had to endure and yet the smiles they
still had for their caregivers have ensured that each one holds
a special place in our hearts," Cotlands orphanage director Jackie
Schoeman said at a memorial service on Thursday.
But South Africa's
roll-out of ARVs, which activists say is hobbled by government wariness
over the drugs, has not stopped new infections and AIDS mortality
continues to rise.
by the research group Markinor said more South Africans were displaying
high-risk sexual behaviour and forecast cumulative AIDS deaths could
hit 9 million by 2021.
notably Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe, appear to be bringing overall
infection rates down -- thanks in large part to condom campaigns.
In West Africa,
which has far lower HIV infection rates than countries to the south,
efforts are under way to widen availability of ARVs but even key
Western donors conceded that not enough was being done.
"How can you
accept that 1.8 trillion dollars a day are traded on financial exchanges
but we cannot find 50 billion euros a year for (AIDS) treatment?
It is shameful morally, ethically and stupid politically," said
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on a visit to Dakar
For some African
AIDS patients, the yearly round of speeches, rallies and commemorations
to mark World AIDS Day has already become a pointless distraction.
"There is no
need to attend AIDS rallies if I come back and my children sleep
hungry," said Esther Kanini, a 41-year-old HIV-positive mother of
five who lives in a tin shack in the vast Ongata Rongai slum west
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