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AfricaFocus Bulletins with Material on Health - 2003-2004

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Nov 7, 2003  Africa: New Commitments on AIDS Treatment
    Despite footdragging by the Bush administration on full funding both for its own initiative and for multilateral efforts, there has been a recent flurry of announcements of new commitments to treat people with AIDS who lack access to antiretroviral drugs.

Nov 23, 2003  South Africa: AIDS Treatment Green Light
    Last week the South African government approved a comprehensive plan for treatment as well as prevention of HIV and AIDS. The result of years of pressure by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and other activists, this step gives the green light for free public treatment of all those in need of it. Implementing this decision, however, still requires enormous efforts.

Dec 1, 2003  Africa: AIDS, Frontline Voices
    Leaders of the All Africa Conference of Churches, meeting in Cameroon last week, pledged to "undertake prophetic advocacy until anti-retrovirals are available to all who need them; have zero tolerance for stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive persons, and do whatever possible to eliminate the isolation, rejection, fear and oppression of the infected and affected in the community." Hundreds of the delegates responded to a call to come forward for testing for HIV.

Dec 1, 2003  Africa: AIDS, New World Health Plan
    "I feel angry, I feel distressed, I feel helpless ... to live in a world where we have the means, we have the resources, to be able to help all these patients - what is lacking is the political will. ... It does indicate a certain incredible callousness that one would not have expected in the 21st century." - United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Jan 6, 2004  Africa: Health for All?
    In mid-December, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its annual World Health Report, the first under the leadership of Director-General Jong-wook Lee. Building on its earlier announcement of a plan to bring AIDS treatment to 3 million people by the end of 2005, the WHO called for a return to the goal of "Health for All" adopted twenty-five years ago. The report calls for strengthening health systems across the board to address the widening gap between rich and poor countries, and it stresses that AIDS treatment will not be sustainable unless it is linked to the strengthening of primary health systems.

Jan 6, 2004  USA/Africa: Health Unilateralism
    "As the U.S. government plods slowly towards expanded funding for its largely bilateral global AIDS initiative (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and as it sends successive waves of teary-eyed politicians on fact-finding tours to AIDS orphanages in Africa, it has been working hard behind the scenes to undercut multilateral AIDS initiatives."

Jan 22, 2004  Africa: Davos Report Card
    In his New Year's message for 2004, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, referring to HIV/AIDS, poverty, and other global issues, concluded: "We don't need any more promises. We need to start keeping the promises we already made." A report card prepared for the World Economic Forum now meeting in Davos, Switzerland has concluded that the international community is putting in barely one-third of the effort needed to achieve internationally agreed goals.

Feb 11, 2004  Southern Africa: AIDS Plans Updates
    Little more than two months after the announcement of a national plan for providing AIDS treatment, South African President Thabo Mbeki and Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang have raised new doubts about the commitment of top political leaders to rapid implementation of the plan. A statement by the Treatment Action Campaign issued today accuses the two government leaders of "serious factual misrepresentations" and "causing confusion in the public and despair among people with HIV/AIDS and health professionals."

Feb 11, 2004  Africa: AIDS & Financial Abstinence
    "You might think that the industrial nations would compensate for a decade of financial abstinence by embracing the Global Fund as the obvious vehicle for resource-constrained countries. But that hasn't been the case. At this moment in time, the Fund is several hundred million dollars short for this year, and almost three billion short for next."

Feb 24, 2004  Africa: Questions on AIDS Plans
    The Bush Administration has formally released a plan for implementation of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and announced initial grants that will provide $92 million this year to four U.S. groups working in 14 "focus countries" in Africa and the Caribbean. But the plan leaves many questions unanswered, These include policy on the use of generic drugs, funding levels for the Global Fund, and how U.S. efforts will be coordinated with other national and global programs.

Mar 25, 2004  Africa: Generic Drugs under Threat
    One of the most important battles affecting how many people with AIDS will receive needed anti-retroviral drugs is to take place in a so-far little publicized conference in Botswana on March 29 and 30. AIDS activists and generic drug manufacturers fear that pharmaceutical companies and the Bush administration will succeed in a behind-the-scenes campaign to discredit the most effective generic treatment, recommended by the World Health Organization, in favor of more expensive patented drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Apr 5, 2004  USA/Africa: Policy Prospects
    A U.S. election campaign, it seems, has room for one foreign policy issue at most. That space is fully occupied by Iraq. So it is no surprise that no African issues - not even the unfulfilled Bush administration promises on AIDS from January 2003 - have edged their way into election debates. The difference that this year's election could make for Africa policy is still largely a matter for speculation.

Apr 19, 2004  Africa: Malaria Action at Issue
    Malaria kills approximately two million people a year, some 90 percent of them in Africa. These numbers come close to the estimated three million worldwide dying of AIDS. The two diseases differ in many ways, but there are deadly similarities. In both cases, action falls far behind promises, while debates about strategy are used as excuses for failure to provide resources.

Apr 22, 2004  Swaziland: AIDS in Context
    "Swaziland now holds the dubious title of [having] the highest [HIV] prevalence level in the world. ... [It] is a vivid microcosm of all the similarly afflicted countries of Southern Africa. At the grass roots, where it counts, there's a superhuman determination to bring the pandemic to heel, and to overcome the tremendous assault on the human condition." - Stephen Lewis, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa

Apr 27, 2004  Africa: Learning to Survive
    Universal primary education is "the single most effective preventive weapon against HIV/AIDS," says a new report by Oxfam International. But donor countries are failing to come up with even the minimal funds they have pledged to support African countries under an optimistically named "Fast Track Initiative" to expand education funding.

Apr 30, 2004  Africa: Tragedy and Hope
    "Africa eludes us; it is so clearly outlined on the map, and yet so difficult to define. From afar, Westerners have long fancied it to be divided into 'black' and 'white,' in the image of their own societies, and yet observant visitors are more likely to be struck by Africa's diversity, and by the absence of any sharp dividing lines."

May 4, 2004  Angola: Humanitarian Update
    Two years after the end to war in Angola, a UN analysis reports, almost all the 3.8 million internally displaced people have returned home. Nevertheless, "the transition [from war to recovery] seems to be on hold," says the report, faulting both donors and the Angolan government for failure to get resources to local communities.

May 24, 2004  Africa: AIDS Treatment Update
    The World Health Assembly has unanimously affirmed the continuation of World Health Organization (WHO) programs to assist countries in obtaining low-cost, high-quality essential medicines. The May 22 resolution endorsed the drug prequalification program, which includes generic fixed-dose-combination antiretroviral drugs. According to Agence France-Press, the United States did not oppose the resolution, although it has not endorsed the WHO program.

Jul 17, 2004  Africa: AIDS Conference Reports
    At the International AIDS Conference just concluded in Bangkok, the U.S. AIDS program came in for sustained criticism on several fronts. In an interview with the BBC, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan chided the U.S. in particular for failing to keep its promises to support the international war against AIDS.

Jul 17, 2004  Africa: Health Policy Reports
    Health systems in Africa are being drained by an exodus of health personnel to wealthy countries, even as the need for professionals to implement new AIDS programs and reconstruct battered health systems grows ever more urgent. A new report from Physicians for Human Rights proposes new measures by both rich and poor countries to address this crisis, including compensation by rich countries for the immigrant professionals they are using to bolster their own health personnel shortages.

Aug 9, 2004  South Africa: AIDS Treatment Update
    "Not more than 10,000 people are receiving anti-retroviral treatment in South Africa at public health facilities. Of these, many are funded by donor agencies. At this rate, the Plan will fall far short of the target announced by President Mbeki of 53,000 people on treatment by March 31, 2005. a target that is already more than 100,000 people less than that proposed in the Plan." - Treatment Action Campaign

Sep 27, 2004  Africa: Blocking Progress
    If the international community did come up with the funds required for adequate support to fight HIV/AIDS, spending the money could still be blocked by International Monetary Fund (IMF) guidelines designed to limit government spending in the affected countries. A new report by ActionAid International USA and three other Washington-based groups, excerpted in this AfricaFocus Bulletin, argues that this outcome is both unacceptable and unnecessary.

Oct 18, 2004  Africa: AIDS Time Bomb
    "If we think we are seeing an impact today, we have to brace ourselves because it is set to get very much worse." Alan Whiteside of the United Nations Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa (CHGA) issued this warning last week at a meeting of the commission in Addis Ababa. Scaling up of treatment is now on the continental and global agenda. But the pace is still far short of that needed to stem the drop in life expectancies and catastrophic damage to all sectors of societies.

Nov 5, 2004  Africa: Obstacles to AIDS Treatment
    There is now a wide international consensus that providing AIDS treatment to all in need of it is essential, along with prevention. But the obstacles are substantial, including lack of resources but also flawed policies and lack of political will. Among particular barriers are the failure to make full use of generic drugs and the policy of user fees that further restricts access.

Nov 11, 2004  Africa: Global Fund Action Call
    The board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is holding its first meeting to take place in Africa next week in Arusha, Tanzania. Ironically, one of its decisions may be to postpone announcement of a fifth round of funding, as donors led by the United States press to reduce expectations and pressure for future funding commitments. Activists in Africa and around the world are calling for mobilization to demand that the Fund stick to its original vision and continue to increase resources to fight the three diseases.

Dec 3, 2004  Southern Africa: Gender and AIDS
    "If we can stop the spread of HIV among women and girls in southern Africa, we can turn the epidemic around. ... gender inequality fuels HIV infection because many women and girls cannot negotiate safer sex or turn down unwanted sex. ... HIV/AIDS deepens and exacerbates women's poverty and inequality because it requires them to do more domestic labour as they care for the sick, the dying and the orphaned." - United Nations Secretary General's Task Force on Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa

Dec 3, 2004  Africa: AIDS Report
    Despite over 3 million deaths from AIDS worldwide this year, the number estimated to be living with HIV continued to climb to an all-time high of 39.4 million people around the world. Almost two thirds of those infected (25.4 million), and almost 75 percent of the deaths (2.3 million) were in Sub-Saharan Africa.