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Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela
11.04.05
Science and Health:
Hard Facts
More on This Story:
President Jimmy Carter

Several years ago NOW producer Jamila Paksima joined former President, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Gates, Sr., the CEO of the largest foundation in the world, and father of the richest man in the world on a journey through Africa. They went to take a first-hand look at a continent coping with the worst health calamity on the planet — HIV/AIDS. NOW, in 2005, David Brancaccio takes on the latest news about global health issues in a long-form interview with former President Jimmy Carter, who has worked tirelessly on behalf of those in the world afflicted with disease — isolated, forgotten, and ignored. Carter just returned from Ethiopia in his fight against trachoma, a painful and debilitating disease that causes blindness. "It's very difficult for the American people to believe that our government, one of the richest on Earth, is also one of the stingiest on Earth," he says.

or read the transcript.

Learn more from The Carter Center.

HIV/AIDS update and the stories of people living with HIV/AIDS


Hard Facts on AIDS

Approximate number of people living with AIDS worldwide:  36 mill.
Approximate number of children orphaned by AIDS worldwide:  13 mill.
Approximate number of deaths from AIDS since the epidemic began worldwide:  21 mill.
Approximate number of deaths from the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918:  20 mill.
Approximate number of deaths from the Black Plague, 14th century:  23 mill.
Number of deaths from conflict and war in 2000:  59,460
Number of deaths due to disaster in 2000:  20,045
Number of deaths due to HIV/AIDS in 2000:  3 mill.


Lessons Learned


Below are excerpts from interviews that NOW producer Jamila Paksima did with Jimmy Carter, Bill Gates, Sr., and Nelson Mandela in Africa.

  • THE STIGMA OF AIDS:

    NELSON MANDELA (speaking at Zola Clinic, Soweto): Now the question of stigma against people suffering from HIV is a very serious one, which is a matter of concern to all of us.

    I have suffered from illnesses which have a stigma. When I was in prison I contracted TB and there are many people who do not want to have anything to do with somebody who has tuberculosis.

    That stigma sometimes is more dangerous than the terminal disease itself. Because you control, you can fight and live as long as possible with the assistance of drugs. But the stigma, it destroys your self-confidence.

  • POLITICS:

    JAMILA PAKSIMA (NOW PRODUCER): When we went to meet with President Mbeki you came out of that meeting you did not seem very happy. What happened in there?

    JIMMY CARTER: Well it wasn't something that happened in there. President Mbeki has been known on a worldwide basis as one of the rare African leaders who has denied repeatedly that there was any connection between HIV and AIDS and he's persistently maintained that anti-retroviral treatments were toxic and had never been proven to be efficacious. There is a lot of progress being made in South Africa but in my personal opinion — and I am not speaking for the Gates Foundation — in my personal opinion, most of that progress has been made in spite of the dynamic leadership of the President and not with his guiding light and inspiration. (Read the update on HIV/AIDS policy in South Africa.)

    PAKSIMA: What would you say to the critics who say it is very easy for us affluent, wealthy Americans to come here and tell people how to solve their problems?

    CARTER: We have been not preachers, but I would say learners, students who have shared to some degree, what we have learned from Africans. [We did not come] to bring Western concepts, ideas and standards to this continent.

    BILL GATES, SR.: I am trying to remember telling somebody here how to solve their problem. I heard a lot from them about what they were doing to solve their problem and my own acuity for those things has been enhanced immeasurably. I don't think that the President or I or anybody in our party came here with the notion of telling anybody how to do something. We certainly don't want to do that. We genuinely came here to learn and we have learned.

  • SPIRITUALITY:

    JIMMY CARTER: Well, one of my most daunting assignments that I have had in my adult life was to preach a sermon yesterday morning in Abuja, Nigeria on HIV/AIDS in church. In a Baptist church. And I tried to express my concept of Jesus Christ my savior and how in my opinion Christ would have reacted to the AIDS pandemic.

    So I don't have any reticence as a Christian to say that we should recognize the commercial sex workers and recognize the innocent women that have been given AIDS, or acknowledge the escapades of their husbands who have been to a brothel and brought AIDS home. We should recognize that they have sinned, as have all of us and they need to be forgiven and they need to be treated as human beings. And given an opportunity for life.

    How do we fortunate people, we rich people, we blessed and secure people react to this plight of AIDS in the world?

    My message is for us to deal aggressively and benevolently, with love and compassion, sharing our love, to make sure that the ignorant, the poor, the outcasts, are prevented from having this terrible disease.

  • LESSONS LEARNED:

    CARTER: A lot of people in our country say, well, foreign aid is just wasted. But if you go to these clinics and see them keeping a baby from inheriting the AIDS from the mother with a very small cost, or see people coming forward voluntarily to take a test to see if they are HIV-positive at a very small cost, it shows how great the need is and how well the money is being used.

    GATES, SR. (speaking at Kibera town meeting, outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya): This is the most serious problem which is challenging the society of this globe, the population of this globe today. There is no question that HIV/AIDS is that problem. More resources simply have to be brought to bear on the problem. At the present rate of expenditures, both in terms of dollars and energy, we will not conquer this problem. Those resources have to be increased.

    Full and frank community discussion is going to be a necessity to beat the plague that is upon us.

    CARTER (speaking at Kibera town meeting, outskirts of Nairobi): Everyone should take responsibility for dealing with this threat to humanity.

    PAKSIMA: Gentlemen, you are both men of wisdom, you have lived a lot and you came to this trip with your eyes open, what was it you were hoping to learn when you came?

    CARTER: Well we wanted to learn three things, I would say. One is the depth of the problem of AIDS in Africa. Secondly, what various leaders were doing that is admirable and needs to be copied in other countries. And third, I think with what efficiency donated development assistance funds are being used in Africa. And we have seen a terrible blight and we've seen that some leaders are superb and the money, very limited funds that are allocated are used very well.

    If you take all the wars in the history of humankind, there has never been such a devastating cost in human life as is resulting from HIV/AIDS, but we haven't yet marshaled any sort of viable response yet. The United States has been spending in Afghanistan a billion dollars a week on military expenditures. I would like to see 1/10th this much, 1/100th this much spent on combating this much more horrible war in the developing world in AIDS. So I think there needs to be an increase in the status of development assistance and generosity in dealing with this problem. And that is the main message that we need to share when we get back home.

  • Sources for statistics: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; World Disaster Report 2000 and UNAIDS, WHO AIDS Epidemic Update, December 2001

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