Monday, March 27, 2006

HIV-AIDS: good policies also require unambiguous political commitment

Thursday 23rd March, we had a very good presentation on HIV/Aids and the workplace. Christine Rendall demonstrated that she is familiar with the topic. I am not going to repeat what she has said but I have one concern.

My concern, however, is about the connection between policies and political commitment. I think that is the best recipe for the issue of HIV/Aids in South Africa. I learnt form Christine that South Africa has got one of the best policies for HIV/Aids in the world, moreover, that is a view shared by the WHO.

My worries are that, compared to some other developing countries, South Africa does not perform well regarding this HIV/aids issue, hence my question: what is the need for the best policy when the situation on the ground shows terrible gaps?

I am not writing about politicians here, but I am still questioning the efficiency of those policies if they are to be carried by a minister and a president whose views on HIV/Aids simply testify ambiguities.

The political environment is a major determinant of policy success of failure. I do share couple of things on most South African government policies, but I am very skeptical about its commitment to HIV/Aids.

A study by a world renown American economist bureau, Sachs Goldman, which is reported by Samir Ghabi in the French magazine ‘Jeune Afrique l’Intelligent’ of February 2004 (http://www.lintelligent.com/), shows how South Africa may not have the required demographic population to sustain its growth rate by 2050. The Study shows how, both economies of South Africa and Brazil have the same growth rate by 2002, but by 2050, Brazil is likely to be far better and rank 9th world economic power with a GDP 5 times bigger than the one of South Africa. That is sad news not only for South Africa but also for Africa.
With attitudes and statements like "If the scientists . . . say that the virus is part of the variety of things from which people acquire immune deficiency, I have no problem with that. But to say that this is the sole cause and therefore the only response to it is anti-retroviral drugs, [then] we’ll never be able to solve the AIDS problem" (Mbeki in 2000 http://www.gcis.gov.za/media/releases/000910.htm).
Analyzing Mbeki's last State of the Nation address, the Treatment Action Campaign is of the view that Government attitude towards the pandemic has not yet changed (http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/Politics/0,,2-7-12_1661207,00.html).
These views were shared by many political leaders (http://www.mg.co.za/articlepage.aspx?area=/breaking_news/breaking_news__national/&articleid=263594)..

According to the DA (Democratic Alliance) Tony Leon for instance, HIV/Aids is one of several serious issues Mbeki had glossed over in his speech. Patricia Delille on the other hand said that Government had enough time to improve service and that should not constitute an excuse. In IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party) Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s word, the South African HIV/Aids issue shows a ‘leadership crisis’. As part of the solution, the ACDP (African Christian Democratic Party) Kenneth Meshoe believes that HIV and Aids should be included on government’s priorities agenda alongside poverty and unemployment.

My own view is that, this country has suffered a lot form past racial imbalances. Apartheid is still alive in many and political leaders should face the HIV/Aids challenge and give a chance to next generations for a long and prosperous life.
I am sorry if I recall apartheid here, but I like these wise words: ‘the past belongs to history, but if nothing is done for the HIV/Aids, today is misery and tomorrow is probably a mystery’.

Something must be done on the top political milieu of South Africa. Otherwise, Sachs’ prediction will be proven right. By writing such an article, Sachs Bureau does not expect things to happen as they planned, they simply warned us to take urgent actions.

Cyrille

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