I’ve just read the most confounding bit of news I’ve seen in a while, and in a source that usually delivers it straight up, making it even more confusing.
It’s this article in the Washington Post that sent me scurrying all over the Internet in search of corroboration and reason.
The story is about George W. Bush’s Africa trip from the angle of PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, where it has succeeded and where it has fallen short. It makes sense, for the most part, as it explains how $15 billion has increased the availability of treatment, but with the rate of infections going up faster than meds can be handed out, that the big picture is not rosy.
The statement that “nearly half of today’s 15-year-olds in South Africa, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the program, will contract the virus in their lifetimes at current infection rates,” jars gratingly against the claim of 157,000 cases of pediatric HIV prevented through providing antiretrovirals to pregnant women, and research that says 40% of those given the lifesaving drugs drop out of the loop, stop taking their meds and most likely die takes some of the gloss off the 1.3 million PEPFAR supports treatment for.
The political motivation combining with whatever portion of the PEPFAR dollar comes from pure benevolence puts an interesting point on the quill, as well:
Studies have shown that family planning could avert far more infections than antiretroviral drugs because many women, especially those with HIV, want fewer children. Critics say the restriction, along with PEPFAR’s emphasis on untested abstinence programs, exists mainly to win support from conservative congressional Republicans, undermining the full potential of a program that the White House bills as one of the biggest humanitarian ventures in history.
Yes, that’s confounding to me, as medical issues should not be cross-contaminated by moral judgement as far as I’m concerned.
Not nearly as confounding, however, as what wraps up the piece:
Yet the past five years have also shown that the AIDS epidemic can be contained by forces other than U.S. money and political will. Africa’s biggest declines in HIV rates during Bush’s AIDS initiative have come in Zimbabwe, where economic collapse has coincided with fundamental social change, including a shift toward monogamy and away from more-costly multiple relationships, research there shows.
Yep … Sandra reads those words, and goes scuttering in search of something that has THAT make any sense.
Zimbabwe put forth as an example of something going right? Hmmmmm. Me thinks there’s something rotten in Harare.
A quick search of “AIDS in Zimbabwe” comes up with 604,000 links on Google and not one I opened made any grand statements about a drop in the HIV infection rates.
AidsPortal.Org has something about an increase in the number of people on antiretrovirals, but also mentions the “daunting task of breaking the vicious cycle of new infections,” which doesn’t sound like a big drop in infections is happening.
HIVInSite, a project of the University of California, doesn’t give any indication of a letup in infections, either. It does, however, give one tiny clue that moved me along … under “New HIV infections, 2005” the entry was “nd”: no data.
Eventually coming across Avert.org’s page on AIDS in Zimbabwe, the true picture emerged.
In many cases, as one Zimbabwean doctor explained to reporters, the reality is that AIDS can now be counted amongst such concerns: “Put simply, people are dying of AIDS before they can starve to death.”
The situation in Zimbabwe is now so bad that:
Between 2002 and 2006, the population is estimated to have decreased by four million people.
Infant mortality has doubled since 1990.
Average life expectancy for women, who are particularly affected by Zimbabwe’s AIDS epidemic, is 34 – the lowest anywhere in the world. Officials from the World Health Organisation have admitted that since this figure is based on data collected two years ago, the real number may be as low as 30.
Zimbabwe has a higher number of orphans, in proportion to its population, than any other country in the world, according to UNICEF. Most of these cases are a result of parents dying from AIDS.
So, there’s the reason AIDS numbers are down in Zimbabwe … more people are already dead than they were last year and the year before, and the deaths are happening just that much faster than new infections are being reported. (We don’t even need to start in on the accuracy of reporting in the country.)
For the WaPo to suggest that Mugabe’s masterwork of horror that is modern-day Zimbabwe proves that “the AIDS epidemic can be contained by forces other than U.S. money and political will,” but rather through, “fundamental social change, including a shift toward monogamy and away from more-costly multiple relationships,” is irresponsible at best, and shows an inclination to accept “research” generated by tyranny in attempts to provide positive spin to genocidal maniacs.
I have come to expect much better from the publication.
This is x-posted to Adoption Under One Roof because it fits in both places.