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Friday, 10 December 2004

AIDS Again. Because It Won't Go Away.

What a Friday. I have just come out of a very depressing AIDS meeting, to read this in the Guardian.

Ok here is your AIDS pop quiz for the weekend. It is based on Zambia, and on rural areas in particular, which are most affected. Which of the following statements do you find most upsetting?

  1. Even where there are basic clinics there is no HIV testing facility available to people, thus leaving them to live in fear and unable to deal with the possibility that they might be infected.
  2. Even if there were testing facilities at clinics most people live too far from a clinic to get treatment. They cannot even afford a bicycle to take them there.
  3. ARVs and other drugs have not been a possibility. You know why? Because restrictive trade ‘agreements’ (enforcements) have forbidden countries like Zambia from locally manufacturing drugs, thus making them unaffordable to those that need them. In July this year Zambia was finally ‘allowed’ to begin manufacturing. Too little too late?
  4. Isolation and lack of information amongst rural communities leads to complete social breakdown. ‘Traditional’ customs say that a sick person must not ever be left unattended. So if the house is full of people with AIDS and their carers, who is farming and providing food for the household? No-one. They starve.
  5. ‘Traditional’ beliefs include the one that a man who has sex with a new-born baby is cured of AIDS.
  6. ‘Traditional’ beliefs encourage the start of sexual initiation rites in girls as young as 9.
  7. ‘Traditional’ beliefs would have it that a young girl who is raped and left with the HIV virus is to blame and thus shunned from her household.
  8. One in Five people is HIV+
  9. Zambia has the world’s second-highest population of orphans due to parents and guardians dying from AIDS. Child-headed households are unable to provide enough food for themselves. They do not attend school and have no access to medical care. They suffer from malnutrition. They die of hunger. They are completely vulnerable to abuse and thus the possibility that they too will end up with AIDS.
  10. Most of these problems should be solved by a country’s own government. But how can that government even begin to address these issues if it is crippled by debt repayments to Western countries. Isn’t it time to Drop the Debt and Make Trade Fair?