ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The Africa/AIDS catastrophe has many faces: The sick and dying, the mourners at graveside... Orphans who sing longingly about waking up the dead... The volunteers who try to help. These scenes are from Botswana and Malawi, but they could be almost any country in sub-Saharan Africa, where 25 million people are infected with the virus that causes AIDS. 17 million people in Africa have already died of AIDS, and millions more are dying now.
MARYLINE MULEMBA: If you would say, "tomorrow one million people will die because of an earthquake," everybody would rush here and bring help. But these people will die slowly and in silence, more or less. The help coming in is still very small.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The response from African governments has varied greatly. Malawi is pushing hard on prevention, but the government lacks resources to do much in the way of treatment. Botswana, with its diamond wealth and with help from abroad, is about to offer life- saving anti-retroviral drugs to all who need them. South Africa's President Tabo Mbeki has raised questions about the causes of aids and the link between HIV and the disease. But his government has also taken steps to access cheaper generic AIDS drugs and the technology to manufacture them. About 4.5 million people in South Africa are HIV-positive. Internationally, a campaign by AIDS activists succeeded last year in getting drug companies to lower prices for the anti- retroviral medications. But even at prices 90% lower than in the U.S., drugs are still beyond the reach of most Africans, and there is a debate among those working on AIDS in Africa and elsewhere about whether the current emphasis on drugs is taking the spotlight off prevention, where it should be. Earlier this month, President Bush, flanked by Nigerian President Obasanjo and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, promised $200 million for a global AIDS fund first proposed by Annan in April. The Secretary-General is hoping to raise $7 billion to $10 billion to prevent the further spread of the epidemic and treat those who are already sick.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We have the power to help. The United States is committed to working with other nations to reduce suffering and to spare lives, and working together is the key.
PRESIDENT OLUSEGUN OBASANJO, Nigeria: All nations, governments, foundations, private individuals and private sector, and indeed all humankind who are stakeholders in the health of humanity are challenged and called upon to make contributions to the global trust fund for HIV, AIDS, and related diseases.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The trust fund would apply not just to Africa, but also to the rest of the underdeveloped world. AIDS experts worry that HIV is also spreading rapidly in heavily populated India and elsewhere in Asia.