How the West Is Not Helping!
In July of 1991, the Central Intelligence Agency issued memorandum 91-10005, The Global AIDS Disaster, and foretold of an impending plague of epic proportions in Africa. This warning, as well as many others, went virtually unheeded by the international community during the past ten years. Many organizations felt that there were other priorities regarding public health and safety or were daunted by what seemed an excessive cost to address the problem. Many in a position to help were indifferent to the plight of Africans. Some actually believed that Africa was overpopulated and saw AIDS as an ally in the effort to reduce population. The Washington Post quotes one member of the National Intelligence Council who remarked that AIDS was good because Africa was overpopulated.1 Ironically, the major component of the international response to AIDS is the same as the international response to Africa's alleged overpopulation problem—condom distribution. Whether by design or by default, this inept response to AIDS has proved disastrous for Africa. When you combine the international response to AIDS with the international family planning programs of condoms, chemical contraception, IUDs, sterilization and abortion, it is no wonder that Carol Ugochukwu. President of United Families of Africa, exclaimed that the West was trying exterminate the African race.2
The CIA warning of 1991 has become reality. At the 13'h International conference on AIDS convened in early July in Durban, South Africa, the US Census Bureau's Population Division issued a report by Karen Stanecki entitled the AIDS Pandemic in the 21st Century. Information in this report on the magnitude of the devastation that AIDS is having on Africa startled even those who are familiar with the situation. For the first time since the Bubonic Plague, a disease is decreasing populations. Because of HIV infection, the populations of Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa could be experiencing decline by 2003. Several other African countries are facing a similar fate. The Census Bureau also projected that life expectancy in several sub-Saharan countries will decline to 30 over the next ten years, crude death rates would double and triple and infant mortality and mortality rates for children under five years will continue to show dramatic increases. According to the Census Bureau, nearly 15 million Africans have died from AIDS since the epidemic began and nearly 11 million children have been left orphans. AIDS is by far the leading cause of death in Africa. The effects of the pandemic are so widespread that, according to the CIA's latest report, the stability of military, economic and governmental structures of some African countries are at risk.3
The danger of the AIDS epidemic in Africa is not just the danger of contracting HIV through sexual relations with an infected person, but that the blood supply is also contaminated. Also, each person with a weakened immune system acts as an incubator for other infectious diseases. That is why tuberculosis has made a comeback in Africa. To further complicate matters, African doctors often lack the technical support to diagnose HIV and AIDS accurately. Often patients who have symptoms similar to AIDS are diagnosed with AIDS but will actually have a different and curable ailment. They are refused treatment, however, because triage protocol dictates that scarce medicines be reserved for curable patients.
The international response to the epidemic has been so anemic that some African leaders are crying that AIDS is a genocidal plot. Namibian President, Sam Nujoma, in a June 8 speech in Geneva, contended that HIV was a manmade disease and that those countries that unleashed the disease should cure it. 4 Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, created a controversy when he publicly challenged whether HIV actually caused AIDS. To say that the areas of origin and transmission warrant more research is an understatement. Regardless, only 109c of the funds spent worldwide to prevent AIDS are spent in developing countries where 85% of AIDS cases occur. 5 Some Africans contend that too much money is spent on surveillance and not enough on research.
No Help from Congress
Many members of Congress realize the obligation to help. The House recently voted to increase the foreign budget to combat AIDS and to triple the amount of debt relief extended to Third World countries. This is definitely a step in the right direction towards helping developing countries contend with a pandemic that actually threatens their very existence. Unfortunately the debt relief may be short lived. The Export-Import Bank, an independent government agency financed by Congress, plans to offer sub-Saharan Africa $1 billion in annual loans to pay for AIDS drugs and medical services, only charging 7% interest. 6 While well intentioned, this offer will mean crushing debt for the recipients who will need to pay some $2000 annually for the AIDS suppressing drugs. This is four to ten times the average annual income. Several African leaders have rejected this offer but the dilemma of how to pay for expensive medications remains.
To illustrate further the international ineptness and apparently conflicting efforts to supposedly combat AIDS and help Africa, one might examine the efforts of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID administers the AIDS funds appropriated by Congress. USAID is also charged with carrying out US funded family planning programs abroad. Duff Gillespie, who oversaw AIDS assistance for USAID in 1997 and 1998, contended that overpopulation was Africa's most important problem. 7 Currently USAID's budget for family planning is $385 million, $125 million more than their budget to combat AIDS. According to the USAID website, the chief goal of family planning is population growth rate reduction. In both of these USAID efforts—AIDS prevention and family planning condoms play a major role. In a press release dated July 9, 2000, USAID boasts that to date they have provided one billion condoms through their AIDS prevention efforts. On the USAID Ethiopia website, USAID boasts of 24 million condoms socially marketed annually through their family planning efforts in Ethiopia alone 8. When you combine all of the programs in all of the countries in which USAID operates, and the various budgets that they can draw from, it amounts to some serious money and to some serious tonnage in latex.
It has been shown that promotion of condoms does not prevent AIDS. In fact, it can be easily argued that USAID's promotion of condoms to prevent AIDS has exacerbated the problem. The British medical journal The Lancet recently published the results of a study that showed condom promotion could lead to an increase in AIDS. Promoting condoms as a sure-fire way to prevent AIDS has led many people to engage in riskier behaviors than they otherwise might have. 9
Furthermore, shipments of condoms and other contraceptives have displaced much needed shipments of medical supplies. Kenyan doctor Stephen Karanja reported to Population Research Institute that thousands of Kenyans will die of malaria whose treatment costs a few cents in health facilities whose stores are stocked with IUDs, Pills, Norplant and Depo-Provera. 10 UN Peacekeeping troops in Rwanda referred to the excessive stores of condoms at the expense of real medicine as the "rubberizing of Africa." 11
USAID's obsession with overpopulation in Africa defies reality. Rich in natural resources, including gold and diamonds, Africa only has a population density of 66 people per square mile. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, has a population density of 634 people per square mile. 12 Yet, each year USAID spends tens of millions of dollars to push condoms, chemical contraceptives and sterilization in Africa, and then spends tens of millions of dollars more to push condoms in their AIDS programs. Simply stated, population control programs, a.k.a. family planning, are a thinly veiled form of racism that has resulted in stagnating economic development. For that reason alone, it should end. It is incomprehensible that the US will spend millions to reduce population growth on a continent where two million people die each year from AIDS, millions of children are orphaned and the people are in need of the most basic medical supplies. USAID's $385 million budget for family planning should be shifted immediately to child survival programs and to the eradication of infectious diseases.
The tragedy unfolding in Africa is beyond comprehension. The international response, however, has been abysmal. For the sake of Africa, an all out effort, including public health measures, research, abstinence promotion and medical aid must be mounted.
1 Barton Gellman, Death Watch: The Global Response to AIDS in Africa." Washington Post July 5, 2000, section A, pages 3.9.10. [Back]
2 LiteSite Daily News, July 18, 2000, "Rubberizing Africa and the Financing of Genocide," Carol Ugochukwu, President of United Families of Africa, interviewed by Mary Mostert of Original Sources. http://www.originalsources.com/0S7-00MQC/7-13-2000.1.html. [Back]
3 David F. Gordon. Central intelligence Agency Report, The Global Infectious Disease Threat and Its Implications for the United States - NIE 99-17D, January 2000, pg.28. [Back]
4 Gellman, 14. [Back]
5 Ibid., 13. [Back]
6 Associated Press, "U.S. To Offer Africa AIDS Relief," July 19, 2000. [Back]
7 Gellman, 9. [Back]
8 http://www.usaidethiopia.org/so2.htm; page 2, October 19, 2000. [Back]
9 "Condoms and seat belts: the parallels and the lessons" The Lancet, Vol. 355. January 29, 2000. [Back]
10 Dr. Stephen Karanja, "Eventually everything hidden comes into the light," PRI Review, March/April, 1997, 4. [Back]
11 LifeSite Daily News July 18, 2000 (above) [Back]
12 www.africa2000.com/XNDX/xdensity.htm source -- World Population Resource Data Sheet 1998. [Back]
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