AIDS in Africa can be beat with adequate resources, UN envoy says
The top United Nations envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa said today that his recent two-week tour of the southern part of the continent had reinforced his fundamental conviction that a concerted effort between the African people and the international community can defeat the deadly disease.
"No matter how terrible the scourge of AIDS, no matter how limited the capacity to respond, no matter how devastating the human toll, it is absolutely certain that the pandemic can be turned around with a joint and Herculean effort between the African countries themselves and the international community," Stephen Lewis, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, told the press in New York.
Mr. Lewis said that at every stop on his four-country visit - Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia - he had been struck by the progress that had been made and the determination with which the African people and their governments were prepared to do battle against the terrible disease.
The Special Envoy said that he was weary to the point of "exasperated intolerance" of those who would question Africa's resolve, and stressed that even in the most extreme circumstances - such as those in the four nations he visited - Africans were engaged in endless initiatives and programmes, which if generalized throughout the continent, would halt the pandemic and prolong and save the lives of millions.
Still, the scale of the catastrophe demanded massive resources, Mr. Lewis said, adding that his country visits had driven home how crucial it was for the wider international community to actively and aggressively support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. "It is impossible to overstate how strongly people feel that the Global Fund is the best vehicle we have to finance the struggle against the pandemic," he said.
"The Global Fund, at the end of January, can be said to be in crisis," Mr. Lewis said, noting that it was legitimate to question the reticence of the rich countries and why they were willing to jeopardize the integrity of the most hopeful financial instrument available to combat the most cruel disease humankind had ever faced. Characterizing the paucity of available resources and seeming lack of interest in the breadth of the devastation as "mass murder by complacency," Mr. Lewis said the time for polite entreaties was over.
"People living with HIV/AIDS are in a race against time," he said. "The pandemic cannot be allowed to continue, and those who watch it unfold with a kind of pathological equanimity must be held to account." He observed that there might yet come a day when a peacetime tribunal would be created to deal with this particular type of crime against humanity.