Activists mark World Aids Day. Though this is the season of
goodwill and generosity, the Bush administration continues to shortchange poor
nations struggling with AIDS. Prepared to spend $100 billion to wage war on
Iraq, the administration has so far spent less than $2 billion on programs to
curb AIDS abroad. (AFP photo)...
To fight Aids is to fight terrorism; the terrifying numbers
Today is World AIDS Day and since AIDS is not saturating the news, there is a
belief that the problem has been solved. Yet in India, Africa and China
the number of deaths and infections are not only staggering but increasing
There is no way to conceive of the amount of suffering that this plague is
causing. There is no way to even begin to imagine the hopelessness and
pain and suffering of AIDS.
Yet in America, the good fundamentalist Christians believe that AIDS is God's
revenge; especially on non-Christians.
When given a choice to kill Saddam and steal his oil or solve the mother of
all killers and a plague that dwarfs all weapons of mass destruction, George
Warmonger Bush rather steal oil.
Are we our brother's keeper? WWJD
December 1, 2002
OUR OPINION: Fighting AIDS abroad would curb terror
Sunday, December 1, 2002
Though this is the season of goodwill and generosity, the Bush administration
continues to shortchange poor nations struggling with AIDS.
Prepared to spend $100 billion to wage war on Iraq, the administration has so
far spent less than $2 billion on programs to curb AIDS abroad. Even as
international aid experts and physicians document a plague that is destabilizing
countries across the globe, the United States has resisted offering substantial
funds to help.
Last summer, when retiring Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) was belatedly stricken
with a bout of conscience over his years of opposing funding for AIDS research,
he proposed a dramatic increase in U.S. donations to curb the spread of AIDS
worldwide. But President Bush fought the proposal.
It was a remarkable moment. As he neared retirement, the jingoistic
troglodyte from North Carolina realized he'd been mistaken about anti-AIDS
efforts. Believing that his Christian faith required more of him, he rounded up
bipartisan support for a bill to pour billions into programs to fight the
epidemic. But Bush, who marketed himself to the American people as a
"compassionate conservative," deep-sixed the plan.
If simple compassion is not enough to persuade the president to do more,
perhaps national interest will. AIDS --- the great plague of the 21st century
--- is creating chaos and instability throughout Africa and parts of Asia. Those
conditions give free rein to terrorist groups such as al-Qaida.
While there is no clear link between poverty and terrorism (the hijackers who
committed the terrorist atrocities of Sept. 11 were mostly middle-class and
educated), it is no accident that al-Qaida could make itself at home in
countries such as Afghanistan and Sudan. In both places, years of civil war had
created desperate poverty and undermined central government authority. It was
easy enough for Osama bin Laden to move in, buying loyalty with his millions.
AIDS is creating similar conditions in countries from Angola to Zimbabwe to
Rwanda. As just one example of the consequences, the Pentagon has started to
notice that AIDS is decimating African armies. That does not portend well as the
United States starts to look toward African nations as sources of petroleum;
multinational oil companies depend on local armies to provide security for oil
The AIDS pandemic has also begun cutting a broad swath across Eastern Europe
and Central Asia; the region now has the unfortunate distinction of having the
highest rate of new infections. Uzbekistan, for example, has had nearly as many
new cases of HIV infection in the first six months of this year as it had in the
previous decade, according to UNAIDS, a U.N.-affiliated health organization.
Uzbekistan, a former Soviet republic, has a heavily Muslim population and
shares a border with Afghanistan. If Uzbekistan's government grows more unstable
because of a high rate of AIDS, American efforts to halt terrorism, drug
trafficking and gun running in the region will be crippled.
Americans are not easily persuaded to support efforts that wage peace.
Despite our self-image as a generous and charitable nation, we donate about 0.01
percent of gross national product in development aid to poor countries, the
lowest percentage of any wealthy nation.
Given his personal popularity, Bush could help Americans see the connection
between increased foreign aid and a more stable world. As we settle in to fight
terrorism for the next several decades, we ought to help ourselves by curbing
the conditions that allow it to fester and grow.
Bush could easily convince Americans of the connection. But first, someone
will have to convince him.
Cynthia Tucker is the editorial page editor. Her column appears Sundays and
One Million China Students to Lead AIDS Fight
Dec. 1, 2002
— By Michael Battye
BEIJING (Reuters) - China, long criticized for ignoring a potential
explosion of the scourge, marked World AIDS Day on Sunday by launching
awareness and prevention campaigns in the world's most populous country.
The campaigns were a sign that at least some in Asia may finally be
ready to overcome social taboos on talking openly about sexual
activities in many of the region's countries where five out of eight of
the world's people live.
At Beijing's Great Hall of the People, the government announced it
would send one million students into the countryside over the next year
to spread the word about HIV/AIDS prevention and persuade people not to
discriminate against sufferers.
Top actor Pu Cunxin hugged AIDS victims in a graphic message to
China's 1.3 billion people that the disease that has ravaged sub-Saharan
Africa is not passed by casual contact.
Even so, experts say, efforts to educate people about how the disease
is spread and to ease the deep social stigma it brands on sufferers may
already be too late to head off a rapid spread.
China, where numbers are little more than best guesses in a land
where many local officials prefer to ignore the disease, already has at
least one million carriers of the HIV virus that can lead to AIDS.
India, the world's second most populous nation, has at least four
Worldwide, 42 million people have the AIDS virus and nowhere is
immune, not even way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
In September, the tiny island nation of Vanuatu was so distraught by
the confirmation of its first AIDS case that Prime Minister Edward
Natapei made a national announcement of it.
The projections are terrifying.
The U.S. Central Intelligence agency reckons that in a mere seven
years, by 2010, India will have the most HIV victims in the world --
somewhere between 20 and 25 million. China, it says, will have between
10 and 20 million.
The United Nations says the whole of the Asia-Pacific region has,
right now, about 7.2 million people with HIV.
The percentages of Asian populations with HIV are low, mostly under
one percent, which is much lower than in sub-Saharan Africa, where the
United Nations says about nine percent of all people between the ages of
15 and 49 carry HIV.
But that 7.2 million figure is a 10 percent increase on last year and
the United Nations reckons that in some parts of India and China,
infection rates are reaching 10 to 20 percent.
What is scaring the experts is that the disease is on the point of
"breaking out" of the vulnerable social groups such as
homosexuals and drug users who share needles and have high percentages
of sufferers, into the general population.
"The experience in all other countries is that when you have
sub-groups like that with very high prevalence, they do interact with
the general population at some point," said Siri Tellier, Beijing
representative of the United Nations Population Fund:
"This is what we're seeing, a high rate of increase and it is
starting to spread to the general population."
CRANKING UP PUBLICITY
That is why governments in countries such as China -- where a
significant number of country folk got HIV from illegal blood collecting
schemes -- are cranking up their publicity machines.
On Saturday, the government collected about 1,000 people in a village
hall outside Beijing and showed them documentaries on what AIDS is, how
it is spread and how not to get it.
The official Xinhua news agency said the series would be broadcast on
1,000 local television stations and reach about half the country's 1.3
Ignorance, it quoted Vice Health Minister Ma Xiaowei as saying at the
premiere of the documentaries, was the major challenge in the battle
against the disease.
Ray Yip of UNICEF said China had three or four years to contain the
spread of HIV so it did not become a "hyper endemic" country
and praised the government for starting to make serious efforts.
"We're not only having all kinds of responses, all kinds of
efforts, but we are also seeing they are addressing the more sensitive
issues," he said. "They're willing to bring out the faces,
willing to say that discrimination is unacceptable."
But the hopes of ending the visceral fear of AIDS sufferers that
people in many parts of Asia feel may be forlorn.
Just ask Lao Ren, who contracted the virus in trying to boost the
income of his poor rural family when he sold blood to one of the illegal
schemes and now scrapes a living from a roadside stall in Beijing.
If his neighbors knew he had HIV, they would flee, he says. If his
customers knew, they would shun him.
"If people knew I had HIV, I would be finished." (With
additional reporting by Tamora Vidaillet) ((Beijing Newsroom +8610
6586-5566 ext 202, Fax +8610 8527-5258 firstname.lastname@example.org)
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