AIDS and Aids

The Aids (assistance) that sustained the war against AIDS (Acquired Immunity Deficiency Syndrome) is dwindling faster than the Euros in Greece’s central bank. At this rate there might not be enough funds even for the life-saving antiretroviral drugs for the infected poor. As the OECD (rich) countries cut their research budgets (austerity measures) basic research on this elusive disease will suffer severely. The noise of ‘Big Pharma’ aside, (Big private or non-state pharmaceutical companies) fundamental/basic researches are almost always done by public institutions, such as the research oriented universities of the states.

As things are currently aligned, the future doesn’t look very promising, at least in regards to securing funds to fight many of the diseases that afflict us here in Africa. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which was set up about ten years ago, has been instrumental in saving thousands, if not millions of lives from departing prematurely to the hereafter. But the Global Fund is now in danger of being abolished completely. See Jeffrey Sachs article next column. Like many such organizations, the Global Fund has also been tainted with corruption, though this ‘life saving initiative’ fares better than the ‘life killing industry’, (military-industrial complex) in this department. See the graph on page 50. No matter; corruption is corruption and unless the issues justifiably raised both by the donors as well as patients are cleared to the satisfaction of all, going forward will not be easy, particularly as these countries face their own protracted economic/financial/social crisis. Be that as it may, in this particular case, one can maybe, maybe plead by hiding behind the old adage; ‘don’t throw away the baby with the baby water.’

Though HIV/AIDS is still mostly communicated sexually, it is no more sexy, in the parlance of the Aids professionals. To some extent, HIV/AIDS has been subdued; infection rates are declining, globally speaking and the cocktail of drugs used for treatment are still holding the fort, touch wood! As a result, the pestilence has been checked and the future, unlike the Aids built around it, looks less gloomy. Today there are no more than 25 million people living with HIV/AIDS globally, but the whole issue as stated above has now started to fade from the public scene, at least in comparison to other topical topics such as ‘climate change’ and ‘climate refugees.’ See the article ‘What is at stake in Durban’ on page 50. Nevertheless, poor countries must earnestly gear up their own meager domestic resources to fight AIDS and the other pestilence in a comprehensive manner. In the short run these problems won’t go away and will remain with us, whether there is sufficient funding or not.

As the crumbling of the prevailing world system accelerates, there is an urgent need to reassess the whole development paradigm that has been hooked on ‘Aids’ coming from all corners with various ulterior motives. To start with, these ‘Aids’ always have strings attached to them and in the particular case of Africa, these Aids mostly come with chains! Because of these shackles, even states that are generally considered ‘developmentalists’ have a hard time harmonizing the interests of donors with their main prerogatives, which include the pressing needs of their general population.

On behalf of our editorial board, we wish the participants of ICASA 2011 fruitful deliberations and pleasant stay in Addis Abeba. Take heart, unlike the recent past, the future of the AIDS industry might not be so rife with resources so as to solicit the cynic’s wrath that was perniciously put: “There are more people living off AIDS than die of it.” Good Day!