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Two Steps Obama Can Take to Defeat AIDS
We are making historic progress against HIV/AIDS: The global rate of new HIV infections has leveled, and the number of annual AIDS deaths has decreased by nearly a third since 2005. Antiretroviral drugs are driving these gains by stopping progression of the disease and, we now know, preventing the spread of HIV infections.
Yet AIDS remains the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty limits access to lifesaving treatments and 25 million people are living with HIV—representing 70 percent of cases worldwide. President Barack Obama should be commended for uniting the world behind the goal of creating an AIDS-free generation. I share his passion and believe we can achieve this in the next decade — but only if we accelerate the provision of antiretrovirals to the poorest and most vulnerable people.
The opportunity has never been clearer. New data published in the New England Journal of Medicine project that early treatment with antiretrovirals in South Africa, my home country, would prove very cost-effective over a lifetime (costing $590 per life-year saved) and generate both public health and economic benefits. The World Health Organization now recommends early and preventive treatment with antiretrovirals, including administration to children and uninfected partners of people living with the disease. The WHO estimates that this could save an additional 3 million lives and prevent at least as many new HIV infections through 2025.
When Obama and I met in South Africa in June, I reminded him that, given his deep familial roots in the continent, his success is our success — his failure, our failure. With that in mind, there are two decisions Obama can make before the end of this year to fulfill the promise of an AIDS-free generation.
Deeper into God
Desmond Tutu, the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town and winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize when this article appeared, was interviewed at his home in Bishopscourt outside Cape Town.
Jim Wallis: We would very much like to hear your perspective on what people speak of as the new era for the church in South Africa, the new level in the struggle against apartheid as the church moves to the front lines.
Desmond Tutu: In many ways the church—perhaps less spectacularly in the past—has been involved in this struggle for some time. Church people have been responsible for bringing the Namibian issue [South Africa's illegal occupation of neighboring Namibia] before the United Nations. And they have brought the plight of squatters very much to the fore.
For instance, the church was involved over the issue of forced population removals, particularly in Mogopa, one of the villages that the government "moved." The South African Council of Churches, with a number of church leaders, was there. We went and stood with the people to try to support them at a time when they were under threat.
Perhaps the government had not yet learned how to be thoroughly repressive so that the church did not need, in many ways, to be quite so spectacular. There were other avenues available for people, avenues that were more explicitly political.
What is different, perhaps, now is that the government has progressively eliminated most of the other organizations which legitimately could have been around to articulate the people's concern. And their repression has intensified. They have chosen the military option.
Desmond Tutu: One Who Speaks Truth to Power
An interview with Desmond Tutu.
On Behalf of Millions
A sermon of thanksgiving.