Friday, April 11, 2008

Good news, but...

George Bush has famously said that he doesn't really care about what history has to say about him - after all, we'll all be dead then - but if there is one thing that will be set in the balance against Iraq and Afghanistan in the eyes of historians (even if there is no revionist view of this) it will be his attitude to AIDS in Africa. Michael Gerson in Lusaka:
About a year and a half after the 2002 Oval Office policy session in which the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) -- the largest effort in history to fight a single disease -- was outlined in a black briefing book, Dr. Jeffrey Stringer received a call from an American embassy official. Stringer, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia, was asked if he could put 1,000 people on AIDS treatment within two months -- a nearly impossible task.
By July of this year, the center will have 100,000 patients on AIDS treatment -- twice the number treated in all of sub-Saharan Africa just five years ago. About half the people in Zambia who need AIDS drugs are receiving them, largely because of PEPFAR -- one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of public health.
Regardless of your opinion of Bush, these are impressive figures, and an excellent result. I would just be a bit cautious on this though:
Stringer also talks of a more subjective measure of success. Five years ago, when driving across Lusaka, he would need to leave himself extra time to navigate the traffic jams caused by funeral processions. Now it is no longer necessary.
I was living in Lusaka five years ago, and the traffic wasn't that bad - and even when it was that had more to do with endless potholes and lurching buses than funeral processions. Livingstone was a different story - there really were countless funeral processions.

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