Posts Tagged ‘orphans’

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.

Confounding, indeed.

This is x-posted to Adoption Under One Roof because it fits in both places.

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How many mornings start off with a sense of despair as I open my computer to learn what has happened around the planet as I slept the night away peacefully in the bosom of my beautiful little family? Far too many.

The world is for more people than not a terrible place of unimaginable pain and suffering where each day brings yet another hurdle to jump or cross to bear … one after the other until there is no more jumping or bearing to do.

The headlines give indication of misery enough, but my mind always wanders a bit further down the road and often ends up dwelling on whatever impact the attention-grabbing event that leads a report has on the children caught somewhere way down the story and living the consequences of religious fanaticism, ethnic intolerance, political unrest, greed, corruption and all the other horrors self-imposed by the human race upon itself.

Occasionally, a news item addresses the effects on innocents directly, as was the case in this article. Although designed by the United Nations propaganda machine for self-perpetuation and circulated through IRIN, the UN’s “humanitarian news and analysis” branch of the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the report does manage to pass along information without too blatant a tooting of its own horn … mainly because there is absolutely NO reason to credit the organization with anything positive under this circumstance … or make a begging plea for additions to its bulging coffers.

The story is on how the unrest in Kenya is impacting the vulnerable in the country, widows and orphans.

When the violence broke out immediately after the election, at least two of the people we support were killed by rowdy youths in their homes. One of our widows was attacked and her home was torn down to the ground; she was very lucky to escape alive. One child-headed household had their home invaded – they were chased away and when they came back everything had been stolen.

This, of course, is one tiny example in a country where millions are at risk any time the boat is even slightly rocked, so precarious is the semblance of stability.

Kenya has long been held up as a positive example of democracy in Africa, a model for other countries more obviously in danger of a rapid downward spiral into chaos. But Kenya has been corrupt as hell for years, and no one with the slightest knowledge of the place could pretend not to notice that the average Kenyan has been getting screwed by their government for decades while the powerful are creaming off the top and living like royalty.

With Zimbabwe just down the road a piece getting a complete pass from the “global community” on everything from its flagrant violations of human rights to blatant corruption, where could impetus possibly come for rising above?

Does the world care? Face it, folks, the answer to that is: Not really.

Pretending otherwise appears to be an unhelpful practice that works pretty well to keep the levels of hell stable for the majority while the minority takes expensive vacations.

Think about this …

At the moment, the population of the USA is somewhere around just over 300 million. Although numbers are hard to come by, USAID estimates that by 2010 25 million children in the world will have been orphaned by AIDS alone (Some suspect this number is a low guess, with estimates up to 200 million circulating.), and although that pandemic does take a hefty toll, added to numbers of children losing parents to other diseases, alcoholism and drug abuse, grinding poverty, famine, violent conflict, the total global population of children forced to fend for themselves could easily approach the number of people living in the United States in any given year.

Orphans, of course, aren’t the only people suffering … billions of children with parents suffer alongside their mothers and fathers … yet no small number of humans blithely go through their lives under the illusion that life is relatively fair … and is meant to be so … and that for the most part justice somehow prevails. Decisions on everything from product purchases to elected official to laws addressing adoption tend to be based on the false sense that happiness is a logical consequence of life for everyone finding the wherewithal their own bootstraps should provide, so consequences are slow to come to those living off the backs of the downtrodden … and that is often not only an expression, but a reality … and remedies too often have more to do with alleviating the little guilt that comes with plenty than actually addressing the real issues others face every day.

Forcing ourselves to wake up and smell the toast is a first step to taking the problems on full frontally, as we will never come to grips with something we have refused to see in all its naked ugliness.

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