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From nobody Tue Mar 4 16:40:16 2003
From: yetyua@hcenho.org (Aribert Moll)
Subject: Boost in U.S. AIDS funding to Africa has strings attached
Newsgroups: soc.culture.african
Sender: Jeanne Freeze
Distribution: world
Organization: Abigail Dinwiddie
Message-ID: <1046021242.699398@news1.lynx.bc.ca>
Date: Sun, 23 Feb 2003 16:56:42 GMT

Boost in U.S. AIDS funding to Africa has strings attached

By Peter Thierjung, 4 March 2003

Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Malawi—four countries with some of the highest AIDS rates in the world—are among the majority of sub-Saharan African countries that will not see a dime from the $15 billion scheme announced by President George Bush in his January 28 State of the Union address. Around $5 billion of the amount is already part of previous budgets.

Called the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the funds are directed toward Africa at the same time as Washington is deepening its investment in the continent—s oil resources and other natural wealth, and has placed troops in Djibouti and the Ivory Coast.

Bush painted the infusion as a unique humanitarian gesture. Seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many, he said, adding that this nation can lead the world in sparing innocent people from a plague of nature.

A number of officials and activists involved in different anti-AIDS programs hailed the announcement. Writing in the February 5 Washington Post, columnist Michael Kelly added his voice to the praise. At the same time, he noted that until now, the response by the United States to this holocaust has been scandalous.

The Clinton administration, Kelly noted, was particularly concerned with defending the profits of the U.S. drug companies. In 1999, he recalled, Vice-president Gore led a determined administration effort, at the behest of the big-walleted American pharmaceuticals, to stop African nations from doing the one most effective thing to slow the slaughter: producing or buying low-cost generic versions of the expensive drug treatments that had vastly reduced the number of U.S. AIDS deaths.

As late as November 2002 of last year, the Bush administration also attempted to thwart the production and distribution of generic drugs. It shifted its stance as African countries expressed outrage.

All the same, Leon Spencer, the executive director of the Washington Office on Africa, said in response to the proposal, There are no grounds to trust this administration if a choice must be made between drug patents and African lives.

Proposal—s fine print Taking a closer look at the initiative, the Boston Globe reported January 30 that 90 percent of the funds will go to projects directly administered by U.S. agencies.

Bush—s initiative could turn out to be a cruel joke, Salih Booker, the executive director of Africa Action—a Washington-based lobby group—told the press. Not only doesn—t it give any major new money in fiscal year 2003 and 2004, but it undermines the Global Fund as the main vehicle fighting AIDS.

The Global Fund is a United Nations body that announced January 30 that it is on the verge of going broke. Officials had lobbied for more than the $1 billion earmarked for the fund as part of the package.

Booker also criticized the slow release of the funds. The first $2 billion will not be made available until October if Congress approves the package, and the balance of $8 billion will be doled out over the following five years.

One does not know what are the conditions of the money, or where it will be allocated, said South Africa—s deputy president Jacob Zuma. It has to take into account that countries like South Africa have specific programs.... If that aid fits into those programs, that would be accepted.

Twelve African countries—Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia—and Haiti and Guyana have been designated the targets of the U.S. plan.

Africa the epicenter of AIDS scourge Today Africa is at the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic. The disease combines with conditions of labor and life that are an indictment of centuries of colonial plunder and imperialist exploitation.

Some 30 million of the world—s 42 million people diagnosed with HIV or full-blown AIDS live on the continent. Africa—home to 10 percent of the world—s population—accounts for nine out of 10 new cases of HIV infection.

More than 80 percent of the world—s AIDS-related deaths have occurred there, leaving more than 13 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa.

The health crisis has been aggravated by a famine that at the end of 2002 put some 14.4 million people at risk of starvation. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, some 7 million farm workers in 25 countries have died of the disease since 1985, and 16 million more could die in the next 20 years.

The loss of able-bodied heads of households and of money sent home by working family members, the challenge of caring for orphans, and the costs of health care and funerals have led people to leave the land to seek income elsewhere, with a serious impact on agricultural production.

In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls working on the land produce 50-80 percent of food, yet they are the majority living with HIV and AIDS.

The World Bank reported that average per capita income in sub-Sahara Africa dropped to $474 in 2000 from $552 in 1991. Ethiopia has the lowest per capita income at $100, while Botswana had one of the highest at $3,300.

Washington—s trade push into Africa Washington—s AIDS initiative comes alongside its push to increase its exploitation of African resources—a drive that is frequently given a free trade label, as under the African Growth and Opportunity Act put in place by the Clinton administration in 2000.

The United States exported more to sub-Saharan African countries in 2001 than to all of the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries combined, said Bush—s 2002 report on the pact. The report also noted that sub-Saharan Africa supplies 18 percent of U.S. oil imports.

Bush described his proposal as a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa. The boast would sound a little empty, however, to those who know of Cuba—s contribution to the global fight against AIDS, including the voluntary efforts of the country—s health workers.

Speaking at a UN conference on the disease in June 2001, Cuban vice president Carlos Lage offered to provide 4,000 doctors and health-care workers to help treat patients in sub-Saharan Africa and other Third World countries. Cuba, he said, would provide teachers for 20 medical schools to train 1,000 doctors a year, and provide AIDS-fighting anti-retroviral drugs for 30,000 patients.

At the same conference, the UN secretary general called for contributions of $10 billion a year to respond to the pandemic. Washington offered $200 million.

Lage questioned why governments of the wealthy powers could not provide the amount requested. At the same time, he said that donations and goodwill...are not the solutions. What we need is justice and solidarity. He urged the assembled governments to demand cancellation of the debt owed by semicolonial countries to banks in the imperialist world.