U.N. Envoy for AIDS in Africa Praises African Leaders’ Efforts to Fight HIV/AIDS, Warns Against Complacency
The United Nations Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis said yesterday in an interview with Reuters that African governments have "finally woken up" to the AIDS pandemic but must "act soon" if they wish to avoid facing an "apocalyptic" crisis, Reuters/Boston Herald reports. "The extraordinary passivity which characterized the last number of years is genuinely a thing of the past," he said, noting Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo's declaration last month that HIV "may threaten the continent with 'extinction.'" However, Lewis warned that the death toll from HIV/AIDS is already "catastroph[ic]," adding, "If we can't turn [the virus] around, God knows what's going to happen." Lewis said that eliminating gender inequality is "key" to fighting HIV/AIDS, stating, "This is a gender-based pandemic and unless we break through on the question of women's empowerment and equality we will simply not defeat the pandemic." However, Lewis said that there is "a light at the end of the tunnel" for Africa's AIDS epidemic. "These governments understand that their entire economic and social infrastructure is being shredded, their productive capacity is being devastated. We now see the possibility of turning the tide," he concluded. Lewis, who visited Kenya yesterday, is scheduled to also visit Rwanda and Nigeria (Reuters/Boston Herald, 7/16).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.