HIV/AIDS in Africa: African-African American Cooperation
(Remarks by Dr. Chinua Akukwe at the US Secretary of State Open Forum on African-African American Cooperation in the Global Fight Against HIV/AIDS, September 17, 2002, Washington, DC.)
September 18, 2002
I wish to thank the Secretary of State, General Colin Powell for his continued support for the Secretary's Open Forum in the State Department as an avenue for exchange of ideas on crucial issues. As a member of the Board of Directors of the Constituency for Africa (CFA), Washington, DC, I am aware of Colin Powell's personal and professional commitment to HIV/AIDS remedial efforts in Africa. In addition, the Secretary of State is strongly committed to sustained cooperation and partnership between the peoples of the great continent of Africa and its brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, of which he is a prominent member. I wish to thank Allan Lang, the Chairman of the Secretary's Open Forum for making this event, possible.
The HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa is shaping up to be a major defining issue of our time. With 21.5 million Africans already dead of AIDS and 28.5 million living with HIV/AIDS in Africa, and almost certain to pass on within the next few years without active intervention, the international community is faced with a crisis of unimaginable proportions. As the current 11 million AIDS orphans in Africa swell to more than 20 million by the end of the decade in Africa, the future of the continent is at stake. HIV/AIDS can create a society of sick people around the world, and, especially in Africa who are unable to work, trade, teach, minister to the sick, maintain law and order, manage diplomatic relations, improve intellectual pursuits or propel their children to greater heights in life.
The HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa and the consequent international response will loom large as the present leaders of the world, including United States come under the brutal gaze of history. Our children and their children will ask critical questions regarding the response of our leaders to the death of millions of people from a disease that is not only preventable but also clinically manageable with currently available medicines and support services. The next generation will likely ask questions regarding the response of African leaders to the greatest development crisis under their watch. They will also ask questions regarding the response of the richest nations on earth, including United States. They are also likely to ask questions on the response of the richest and the most powerful nation on Earth, the United States of America.
The HIV/AIDS crisis will also raise questions on what kind of society will allow a situation whereby 28.5 million people in Africa will die when resources are readily available for remedial measures. The crisis will raise questions on what kind of society will allow $7-10 billion a year to stand between a sustained and effective response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. These questions are already being raised, even from the highest policy makers. Last week, I had the honor of serving as the moderator of the late Honorable Ron Brown Lecture Series on HIV/AIDS in Africa, organized during the Congressional Black Caucus week in Washington, DC, with Dr. Peter Piot, the executive director of UNAIDS as the keynote speaker. Dr. Peter Piot made it very clear that the response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, both within Africa and from the international community, will be a major test of our moral, financial, intellectual, and policy values.
In my view, critical to the global response to the HIV/AIDS in Africa are two important constituencies: Africans and African-Americans. Both Africans and African Americans are at the receiving end of the epidemic, with African American women accounting for the fastest rising incidence of HIV infection in the United States. The AIDS quadrangle of poverty, Tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infection is endemic in the African-American community. The African-American community played a strong role in mobilizing government's financial and technical resources for AIDS remedial effort in the urban centers of America with the strong support and participation of the Congressional Black Caucus. They also played a prominent role in pushing the Clinton and Bush administrations to mobilize resources for HIV/AIDS activities in Africa. The Constituency for Africa (CFA), the organization I serve as a board member, with the prompting of its chairman, Honorable Ron Dellums, made the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, the central issue of its advocacy efforts in the United States through the AIDS Marshall Plan for Africa. It is also not a coincidence that Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, a native of Ghana, practically dragged the international community kicking and screaming into developing a political response to the pandemic, culminating in the establishment of a global fund to tackle HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis in Africa and other parts of the world.
African-African American cooperation is crucial in mobilizing resources in Africa and energizing a strong coalition for AIDS relief in the West, especially in the United States. Since AIDS remedial efforts in Africa remain considerably slowed down by lack of resources, the envisaged African-African American cooperation must extend beyond slogans and empty rhetoric. The African-African American cooperation must have specific goals, specific timelines, and specific strategies as the clock ticks on the millions of Africans awaiting untimely death from AIDS. In 2001, I co-authored an article with Melvin Foote, the president of CFA on the need for an African-American agenda in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. I will incorporate some of our conclusions in articulating what I consider to be goals for an African-African American agenda in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.
TEN GOALS FOR AFRICAN-AFRICAN AMERICAN AGENDA
1. Every African living with HIV/AIDS should have access to lifesaving antiretroviral therapy on or before December 2003.
2. Every African pregnant woman should have access to life saving medicines that can reduce or eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV on or before March 2003.
3. Every African AIDS orphan should be in school and receive appropriate medical care on or before December 2003.
4. Every African nation must meet their commitment to devote 15 percent or more of their national budgets to health issues, including HIV/AIDS remedial efforts on or before December 2003.
5. Every African nation should have enough resources to mount a credible information, education and communication campaign against HIV transmission on or before June 2003.
6. The United States should contribute at least 50 percent or $5 billion dollars needed every year in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria on or before December 2003.
7. Every African country with 5 percent or more of its population living with HIV/AIDS should have their debts cancelled and the savings channeled to verifiable expenditures on health and social programs on or before June 2003.
8. Every African country must demonstrate its commitment to population-based democracy, transparency in the rule of law, and the promotion of private enterprise in order to reduce concerns about governance in Africa and AIDS remedial efforts on or before June 2003.
9. The Africa's New Partnership for Development (NEPAD) should have an action plan on HIV/AIDS on or before June 2003.
10. On or before January 2004, create a mechanism whereby African professionals living in the West and African-American professionals can provide one or more years of volunteer or paid work in coordinated AIDS remedial efforts in Africa.
Each proposed goal for an African-African American agenda will address crucial issues in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. Each goal can be translated into objectives and action steps that can mobilize human, material and technical resources. Each goal is also amenable to public and private partnerships, including civil society collaboration. As the clock ticks on the millions of Africans living on the AIDS death row, time is of the essence.
About the author: Dr. Chinua Akukwe (firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com) is a member of the Board of Directors of the Constituency for Africa, Washington, DC and a former Vice Chairman of the National Council for International Health, now known as the Global Health Council, Washington, DC. Dr. Akukwe has written extensively and made presentations on HIV/AIDS in Africa and Africa's development issues.