AIDS was an inferno burning through sub-Saharan Africa. The American people, led by Bush, checked that fire and saved millions of lives.
People with immune systems badly weakened by HIV were given anti-retroviral drugs that stopped the progression of the disease. Mothers and newborns were given drugs that stopped the transmission of the virus from one generation to the next. Clinics were built. Doctors and nurses and lay workers were trained. A wrenching cultural conversation about sexual practices broadened, fueled by American money promoting abstinence, fidelity and the use of condoms.
“We kept this country from falling off the edge of a cliff,” said Mark Storella, the U.S. ambassador to Zambia. “We’ve saved hundreds of thousands of lives. We’ve assisted over a million orphans. We’ve created a partnership with Zambia that gives us the possibility of walking the path to an AIDS-free generation. This is an enormous achievement.”
Bush remains active in African health. Last September, he launched a new program — dubbed Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon — to tackle cervical and breast cancer among African women. The program has 14 co-sponsors, including the Obama administration.
Falling death ratesNyankombe sells colorful batiks, purses and other crafts to benefit Mothers without Borders, a charity that looks after orphans. When AIDS tore unchecked through southern Africa, millions of children lost their parents. Nearly one in five children in countries like Malawi and Lesotho were orphaned. In Zambia, it was one in four.
A decade ago, AIDS was killing 630 of every 100,000 Zambians, according to the World Health Organization. That was 100 times the AIDS death rate in the United States.
In neighboring Botswana, the toll was 750 of every 100,000 people. That was four times the rate for the leading cause of death among Texans (heart disease).
In 2001, four in 10 adults in Botswana were infected with HIV. President Mogae went before the United Nations to plead for the life of his country.
“We are threatened with extinction,” he said. “People are dying in chillingly high numbers. It is a crisis of the first magnitude.”
Bush, with bipartisan support from Congress and $15 billion, mobilized the U.S. government with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. In 2008, Congress agreed to provide $38 billion more.
By the time Bush left office, the death rate from AIDS had fallen more than 60 percent in Botswana. There are now 330,000 taking anti-retroviral drugs.
The death rate fell by nearly half in Zambia. There are 418,000 Zambians taking the drugs.
Monday, June 11, 2012
From the DallasNews: