Today is the 22nd annual World AIDS Day, a moment of international
awareness of the HIV and AIDS epidemic that plagues every corner
of the world. The timing of this year's World AIDS Day--the same day
that President Obama is set to announce a 30,000-plus
troop increase in Afghanistan--is a stark reminder of the severity of
the AIDS epidemic. In 2007, fighting in Afghanistan claimed the lives
of 1,523 civilians
and 232 troops
. That same year, AIDS was responsible for 2 million deaths
including 270,000 children. Despite the grave challenges of combating
AIDS, especially in places such as South Africa where conditions are
poor and the infection rate is 12%, some experts find cause for
- Prevention, Not Treatment Newsweek's Katie Paul explains
that the Bush-era plan emphasized treatment over prevention, which mean
"bypassing local governments to get as many people on treatment as
possible, as quickly as possible. But while that has produced
impressive results, the approach is far from sustainable." The new
plan: "Shift more resources over to prevention efforts. Transfer
local ownership and put national governments on the hook for delivering
services. Monitor and evaluate which programs are working, then report
- Fighting AIDS By Farming The Atlantic's James McWilliams looks to Rwanda.
"[M]any of the country's HIV patients did not have access to ample
HIV/AIDS drugs work most effectively when patients are eating a sound
diet. They work poorly when patients are malnourished. Experts called
this situation 'a nutrition gap.'" McWilliams describes how activists
started local farming collectives for HIV-positive Rwandans, called the
"nutrition through agriculture" initiative. He beams, "These are people
with HIV/AIDS who were once marginalized as incapable
of maximizing the productivity of Rwanda's agricultural resources.
Today, they're people who are not only growing food--and preparing
their own bodies to benefit from the wonders of modern
medicine--they're making money by selling their surplus produce."
'Watershed' Improvements U.S. News's E.J. Mundell calls
2009 "a watershed year in terms of advances in prevention and
treatment." Mundell explains, "One big reason could be expanded access
to antiretroviral drugs. A
report released in October by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and
UNAIDS found that 42 percent of people in the developing world who
carry HIV now have access to life-extending medications. [...] Other
nonprofit groups -- most notably the Clinton Foundation and the
Gates Foundation -- have also led the charge, helping to broker
price-reduction schemes with pharmaceutical companies for the cheap
distribution of AIDS drugs in poorer nations."
- U.S. Political Will The Huffington Post's Matthew Kavanagh asks, "Where is the $50 billion for global AIDS promised by President Obama,
Vice President Biden, and Secretary Clinton when they were campaigning
for our votes?" He lays out the opportunities. "The seeds of success are all there: strong, bold leadership, a belief
in human rights and the capacity of wealthy nations to do good in the
world, and a renewed commitment to global engagement. They have
promised a Global Health Initiative centered around women. As the
leading cause of death and disease among women, HIV has to be the place
to start and Obama can signal a break from the Bush era by eliminating
ideologically driven prevention programs that fail women."
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