"We should not be at funerals every Saturday afternoon," Kenya's top health official, Charity Ngilu, recently told the Nairobi media. In 2001 an estimated 190,000 adults and children in her East African nation died of HIV/AIDS complications. As the world's eyes are fixed on combat in Iraq, we are losing ground in the war against HIV/AIDS. The rapid increase in new infections poses a lethal threat to many nations in the developing world. According to a December U.N. report, 5 million people worldwide were newly infected with HIV last year and 3.1 million died of AIDS-related causes. More than 42 million people across the world have HIV/AIDS.
The U.S. Congress, the United Nations, and the World Bank are preparing to spend millions of dollars in the fight against HIV/AIDS through faith-based organizations. But new spending does not itself vanquish HIV/AIDS. There must be a much better balance of spending priorities. Prevention programs, which stress abstinence and fidelity, should have equal standing with efforts to care for the sick and their families.
Yesterday saw a huge step forward as the U.S. House passed a bill to provide $15 billion for fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in the next five years. An amendment requiring that a third of the program's prevention funds be used to promote abstinence received much attention and lobbying. The amendment passed, but few noted that prevention efforts receive only 20 percent of the $15 billion (55 percent goes to treatment programs, 15 percent to palliative care, and 10 percent to AIDS orphans). We rejoice that both the bill and the amendment passed, but think it's a tragedy that prevention received only a fifth of the funds.
People with HIV/AIDS should have access to a high ...