Effort to Fight HIV/AIDS and Famine in Africa Should Focus on Women, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Says
In order to "save Africa from two catastrophes" -- the HIV/AIDS epidemic and famine -- "we would do well to focus on saving Africa's women," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan writes in a New York Times opinion piece. Women account for 50% of the individuals infected with HIV worldwide and 58% of the HIV-positive people in Africa. According to Annan, AIDS is "attacking the capacity of these countries to resist famine by eroding those mechanisms that enable populations to fight back -- the coping abilities provided by women." He says that women are the backbone of African societies and "nurture social networks that can help spread the burden in times of famine." However, as HIV/AIDS destroys the health of African women, the disease is also "eroding the skills, experience and networks that keep their families and communities going," Annan writes. He states that because this famine is unlike past famines, efforts to stem the twin epidemics must include both food assistance and HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. The solutions require the establishment of "early-warning and analysis systems that monitor both HIV infection rates and famine indicators"; a "renewed effort to wipe out HIV-related stigma and silence"; innovative farming techniques suited to a weakened work force; and large-scale programs to care for AIDS orphans enabling those children to remain in school. Annan states "that there is reason to hope," citing prevention successes achieved in Uganda, South Africa, Zambia and Ethiopia. "We can and must build on those successes and replicate them elsewhere. For that, we need leadership, partnership and imagination from the international community and African governments," he concludes (Annan, New York Times, 12/29).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.