Stratospheric statistics and serial superlatives can still cut through – even in this age deluged by data. For some, today’s omnicrisis, ... born of the pandemic and the ensuing geopolitical clash over Moscow’s war on Ukraine, might seem to rival the great crash of 1929, which also followed a pandemic amid heightened geopolitical rivalries.
HIV-Aids is the scourge that maimed Africa leaving in its wake millions in throes of perdition.
So when the noteworthy Stephen Lewis at a recent address to the Global Fund got into a serious rant about what else the world could have done to lessen the gravity of this pandemic, I was forced to listen.
Lewis enumerated a bunch of things that many stewards did wrong that resulted into unnecessary deaths. And hearing him say it loud and clear was rather harrowing.
• Lewis was clear that he is dubious about UNICEF’s plan to eliminate the transmission of the HIV virus from mother to baby by 2015 (these organisations love benchmarks) because he doubts that this is a realistic time-frame. And more so because the knowledge of how to prevent vertical transmission has been around but never applied systematically, resulting into the death of millions of infants. He cautioned against “dewy-eyedness.”
• Lewis also deplored male dominance that has doomed many women’s lives because they lacked the means to take charge of their own health. The pandemic proved that women are subordinate to men; and men simply did not care enough even as the burden of the disease fell upon the females. Worse still, it was/is mostly women that were/are stigmatised, discriminated against, and often isolated. Unfairly, the face of Aids became a woman.
• Lewis talked of known practices such as male circumcision that could have potentially reduced the spread of the virus because it had been proven to work. Evidence mounted and there were calls for the procedure to be made safe and available to all but many decision-makers simply ignored them. And only because they waited for the endorsement of the scientific community that relies on empirical evidence in order to validate. But that long wait cost many lives – mere human collateral damage?
• Even as Lewis praised the treatment-as-prevention approach now being championed, he lamented the time it had taken for all stakeholders to rally behind it because from the get-go it was always based on science and commonsense. The resulting delay in action contributed to millions of untimely deaths – a prolonged life never being optional.
• Lewis challenged the denialists, like Thabo Mbeki, who for years refused to accept that HIV virus caused Aids. Neither did he spare the many world leaders that never publicly rebuked Mbeki’s position to his face when many were dying under his very watch. Many hands are tainted with the blood of those victims of denialism.
• Lewis condemned the casual delays in responding to the needs of vulnerable groups such as the polygamous/polyamorous partnerships, instances of an infected partner, homosexuals, sex workers and rape victims as well as intravenous drug users – all who were often contemptuously dismissed. So to hear many now rallying behind the slogan “Know your epidemic, know your response” is ‘change he can believe in’.
Mr. Lewis did not stop there, but I will.
See speech HERE
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