United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan leads a high-powered conference in Nigeria which aims to set up a Global Fund, providing 10 billion USD per year, every year, to fight AIDS and other epidemics in Africa. It is intended that the 53 member-states of the Organisation for African Unity contribute 15% of their annual national budgets towards the fund. This conference unites the UNO, through the World Health Organisation, and the Organisation for African Unity. Ex-US president, Bill Clinton, was a special representative, a guest of the Nigerian government which hosted this conference. Kofi Annan set the tone of the moment with his opening statement “We need money”. What is intended is a permanent and continuous super-fund, which will provide a supply of money for treatment of patients and educational programmes for children. One of the major problems in sub-Saharan Africa is the cultural attitude towards the sexual act. In many countries, the words which translate this expression are “play-sex”. The connection between the act of “playing” and the terrible consequences of unsafe sexual relations with an infected person have yet to be explained to millions who are unaware of what is involved when they “play”. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are 36 million HIV-positive people, 25 million of whom have AIDS. The Human Immuno-deficiency Virus has several strains, all of which can lead to a more serious condition (Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome) in which the body is attacked by opportunist infections as the immune system breaks down. “Last year alone, AIDS killed more people that all the armed conflicts put together”, said Bill Clinton. The consequences are dramatic.In Kofi Annan’s words, “A generation of potentially productive young adults may be decimated, making AIDS the greatest obstacle against development in Africa”. Several countries have more than one million people infected : South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique . It is a sorry statement on humanity that money is readily available for arms, trafficking of drugs and human beings and sexual exploitation rings of women and children. In these areas, money flows like a torrent. When it comes to fundamental issues like the health of millions of people, it is necessary for the Secretary-General of the UNO to have to ask for financing. The figures speak for themselves but unfortunately, they are only figures, they never leave the paper, they float around newsrooms on a disinterested and impotent wave of apathy, make furtive and fleeting visits into the news, and disappear again into hidden and dusty dossiers. Unfortunately and sickeningly, this is not surprising. After all, we are speaking about one of the poorest regions of the world.
TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY, PRAVDA.RU, LISBON
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