I recently read the article posted below about the amount of money spent in developing countries, particularly in Africa, to combat HIV/AIDS while ignoring other mounting health issues. It is time to spend funds wisely and focus on other health issues that are more prevelant than AIDS. As always, thank you to all H2O for Life schools for your participation in combatting the water, sanitation and hygiene issues facing schools around the world.
Experts want African aid funds channelled away from HIVFocus on Aids, they say, has led to neglect of other fatal conditions killing young children
Alex Duval Smith The Observer, Sunday 25 October 2009
Top scientists are demanding a controversial overhaul of health spending in Africa, arguing that the billions of pounds targeted at HIV during the past 20 years have led to a neglect of other killer diseases and basic health problems such as diarrhoea.
Developed countries poured $13.2bn (£8.2bn) last year into efforts to combat HIV, chiefly for Africa, up from $480m in 1996. But only eight countries, all in southern Africa, remain in the grip of a severe Aids crisis, while World Health Organisation data show that five of the biggest killers in Africa are illnesses that affect children under the age of five.
Childhood diarrhoea kills an estimated 1.5 million children under five each year worldwide – at least half of them in Africa – although it is easily treatable with zinc tablets that cost little more than $2 each. Diarrhoea received less than 5% of worldwide research and treatment funding last year.
Daniel Halperin, an HIV epidemiology researcher at the Harvard Medical School of Public Health, said: "There has generally been a misalignment from the donors. It is time for a rethink. Many people in the west believe all Africans are impoverished and infected with HIV. Yet the reality is that most countries have stable HIV prevalence of less than 3%. What most people really need are things such as clean water and family planning. Even tuberculosis and malaria get far less money than HIV. In some cases these sectors have inadvertently been hurt by the focus on HIV."
One of Africa's leading health economists, Alan Whiteside, who is director of the Health Economics and HIV/Aids Research Division at the University of KwaZulu Natal, said the flood of donations towards the battle against Aids had also created the conditions for widespread misuse of the funds. Whiteside played a prominent role in bringing the southern African Aids epidemic to the world's attention in the 1990s. He has also advised the United Nations and Aids2031 – an international expert group set up to chart the best route to tackle Aids in advance of the 50th anniversary of the first report of the illness.
"The lure of Aids money has led in some African countries to large-scale corruption," he said, "and the establishment of non-government organisations as an industry. The achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by 2015 depends on us getting our focus on Aids right.
"Where those goals are missed by the widest margins, Aids will have been responsible. The focus on treatment has distracted us from prevention. Solutions need to be tailored to the situation in each country. Money needs to be reallocated based on what we know now, not what we knew then."
H2O for Life