Category: Other stuff
Date: 16 July 2002
Is Aids in Africa going to become the greatest humanitarian disaster in history? At the moment, it is predicted that the average life expectancy in Botswana, one of Africa's most developed countries, will be reduced from 70 to around 26 year within the next 10 years. Those that contribute most to growing the economy will be decimated. There is a similarly gloomy picture across much of Southern Africa.
What can be done? In the short term, the West must introduce Aids specific vetos on international trade laws concerning the patenting of antiretrovirals (the drugs that have made Aids a more manageable disease in western countries). At the moment, the patented drugs are much too expensive for African families. In Brazil, the government ensure generic manufacture of some of these drugs at a very early stage and the problem has been controlled.
Poverty, lack of understanding and sexual inequality are equally big barriers to Aids control. If people cannot even gain access to clean drinking water, they will struggle to afford condoms and other preventative methods. In many countries, including Africa and Russia, where the epidemic threatens to spread to next, patriarchal cultures subordinate the rights of women to avoid dangerous sexual encounters.
Finally, we must find a way of overcoming the apathy that seems to have overcome western countries now that antiretrovirals have made Aids less of an immediate issue. It still is a very real issue in this country - a recent report showed that immigrants from Africa have overtaken homosexual men as the largest group reporting new HIV infections in Britain. The Human Rights Act gives overseas visitors who are found to be HIV-positive the right to stay and be treated for the rest of their lives if treatment is nto available at home.
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