catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 1 :: 2003.01.03 — 2003.01.16


Approaching the AIDS emergency

“2.5 million Africans are going to die next year, because they can’t get their hands on drugs that we take for granted in Europe and America. That’s not a cause, that’s an emergency. I’m here tonight to talk about the AIDS emergency,” said Bono as he addressed the crowd at Wheaton College in early December.

What gives Bono the right to call it an emergency? Well, despite the 2.5 million people that will die next year from AIDS in Africa, here are a few more reasons:

  • 9,500 a day are infected with HIV/AIDS.
  • 6,500 a day die from HIV/AIDS.
  • There are one million HIV/AIDS orphans in Ethiopia alone.
  • In Malawi, 75% of their schoolteachers die each year from this disease.
  • Life expectancy in Botswana has fallen from 63 to 37 because of HIV/AIDS.

These are just a few of the reasons why Bono has every right to call this situation an emergency. And it is an emergency because it does not seem to be getting any better.

This is just one aspect of the new organization, DATA (Debt, AIDS, and Trade in Africa), which is trying to make people aware of what is going on in Africa.

The statistics that accompany the debt problem are eye opening. In a given year Africa spends $14.5 billion dollars repaying debts, but it only receives $12.7 billion in aid. Many of the countries are never paying one dollar on the principle they owe, they are only making interest payments, which condemns them to perpetual indebtedness.

DATA does not suggest that the African countries just have their debts dropped with no questions asked. They state, “The first step is for countries with debt problems to show that their governments are democratic and accountable, so people can be confident that money is well-spent. They also should have clear and budgeted programs for fighting poverty with the extra money they would receive.”

The AIDS emergency has already been discussed. What can be done about it? The two main things that need to be done are education and treatment. There is much false information going around about AIDS. In South Africa, males think that if they have sex with a virgin, they will be cured from the disease. They are raping girls as young as 9 months old. There is also false information that condoms actually cause the spread of AIDS, that there are little holes in them that let the disease pass through.

The people of Africa need the medication to make them better. There are now affordable drugs available to treat HIV/AIDS and allow the patient to live a productive life. The problem is that most of the African people can not afford these drugs and this leads to a greater problem. Dr. Jim Kim, who also spoke at Wheaton College, explained that if treatment is not available, then the people have no desire to know if they have the disease or not. Why would you want to know if you had a life-ending disease if you didn’t have the means to treat it? If people don’t know they have it, then they can continue to spread the disease.

The trade situation in Africa is in a lowly state to say the least. The African continent has 12% of our world’s population, but it only accounts for 1% of the world’s exports. This is due to reasons like not having the resources to compete with the wealthier countries. If Africa received help with its economy, they themselves could help solve their poverty problem, and they would have to depend less on foreign aid.

You can either fall into one of two camps. You can look at the situation, think that this is not America’s problem and do nothing, or you can see that this is a problem that is seriously affecting the world in a negative way. You can step out of the individualistic bubble that we are trained to create, see that this is an emergency, and do something to help solve the problem. America has been blessed greatly—what will we do with that blessing?

If you want to know what you can do, visit the DATA website for more information.

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