For the last several months, stories have been trickling out of Africa of people dying as AIDS clinics fall short of drugs. Now comes a grim, front-page report in the New York Times that details how the AIDS war, particularly in Africa, is failing. With the decline in the economy has come a retrenching of U.S. contributions to Africa and a scaling back of the once-heralded program known as PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief). In addition, donor contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have dropped significantly, as have other major contributors to the fight, according to the Times.
"What I see is making we very scared," Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, is quoted as saying. Without a shift in donor giving, he said, "The whole hope I've had for the last 10 years will disappear."
The story describes a clinic in Uganda where AIDS drugs, once readily available, are now drying up. People in need of medications are now put on a waiting list and only receive them when someone else dies.
The series of stories also detail other major disappointments in the AIDS fight. Science has produced no magic bullet - no vaccine, no microbicide or female condom that is effective, no cure for the underlying HIV infection. And prevention programs are falling behind. For every 100 Africans put on treatment, 250 more become infected with the virus, according to UNAIDS. Globally, there are 7,400 new infections every day.
As one who has spent time in Africa and advocated for children there, these stories are disheartening, to say the least. It just gives me all the more resolve to continue my efforts in supporting those grassroots organizations in Africa that I know are effective in helping to combat the impact of AIDS. I have seen how they have been able to restore the well-being and transform the lives of youngsters who have lost parents to the disease or are struggling with HIV infection themselves. These are programs that work - and that will continue to work so that these children can outlive the crisis and thrive.