quinta-feira, dezembro 01, 2005

Annie Lennox no jornal The Times

The Times
December 01, 2005

Five years to kill this silent genocide

Annie Lennox

A three-pronged assault may deliver the promises made by G8 leaders about HIV/Aids

WHAT WILL YOU remember 2005 for? Maybe the devastating hurricane in the United States. Perhaps the nail-biting climax of the Test matches. Possibly the bombs that brought terror back to London.

Probably not for paragraph 18(d) of the G8 Africa communiqué. But that snippet of hope should be on the lips of anyone who cares about justice. In that section, just 14 lines long, our leaders promised to get Aids treatment to the women, men and children who need it by 2010. They showed, for the first time, a willingness to face up to the silent genocide scything through poor communities the world over.

Figures released last week show that more than 40 million people are now infected with HIV — the highest level. Of that number, those who live in rich countries like ours can expect easy access to the drugs that keep them alive and healthy. The picture elsewhere couldn’t be more different. For the poor in places such as India, South Africa and Nigeria, an HIV diagnosis is a death sentence — a promise of a slow and agonising demise.

Earlier this year I travelled to Uganda and saw a picture repeated in poor countries worldwide. I met Dismas, an HIV-positive man in his early thirties. Younger than me. He’s already lost his mother, father, three brothers and a sister-in-law to Aids. He’s now nursing his aunt and the only brother he has left. As a mother I can’t stop thinking about the children these dying adults are leaving behind.

This family’s story isn’t exceptional in Uganda. It’s life as it’s lived, without access to treatment. It’s what the world looks like when drugs are expensive and people are literally too poor to live.
It may be a common picture, but it’s not inevitable. All of us can stand up against this grotesque injustice. We can all extend our hands, in solidarity, determination and anger. We have the science. We have the drugs. What has been missing is the political will to act.

That’s why this year’s G8 decision on Aids treatment is so crucial. For the first time the politicians got to grips with the scale of the Aids emergency. Every G8 leader signed, in their own hand, a document that promised that, by 2010, nobody will die because treatment is out of reach. That’s a revolutionary commitment. It’s historic, visionary and bold.

The politicians have done something amazing, but they didn’t do the right thing on their own. When I first heard that the treatment target had been adopted by G8, I couldn’t quite believe my ears. It’s times like that when you stand humbled before the sheer will of the activists who have made it happen. In South Africa, groups such as the Treatment Action Campaign have made a noisy, relentless moral case, while in the months running up to G8 the UK’ s Stop Aids Campaign bombarded the UK Government with their demand for universal access to Aids treatment.

I’m proud to have been able to lend my voice to the international treatment movement and to have played my part in securing the pledge. In 50 years’ time, we could look back and say this was the year when we started to make Aids history. But we’ve had promises before; they must be turned into action. Many barriers remain and there are already worrying signs.

Although the UK and other Governments have been providing increased aid for HIV and Aids, there is still a huge gap between the money available and what is needed. For example, the Global Fund (an international fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria) raised only half of what was needed at its last donors’ conference. While the UK set a welcome precedent by doubling its contribution to the fund, other donors did not pay their fair share.

Increased financing will also be required to enable poor countries to invest in their health services. The demand for HIV and Aids services, and in particular the provision of treatment, threatens to overwhelm the health sectors in many developing countries. About 25 per cent to 40 per cent more doctors and nurses will need to be trained in southern Africa in the decade up to 2010 to compensate for losses of staff, many of whom have died from an Aids-related illness.

Perhaps the single toughest change to achieve will be in the intellectual property rules that put private profit before public health. There will need to be a huge expansion in the production and distribution of cheap, generic drugs. Well organised and financed lobbying from the pharmaceutical companies threatens to undermine the right of developing countries to treat their people. The drug companies’ ferocious protection of their patents condemns millions to death by keeping drug prices artificially high. They should remember the spirit of Jonas Salk, who invented the polio vaccine but refused to patent it because it would be “like patenting the Sun”.

The three key next steps — increasing aid for Aids, delivering effective health systems and making the trade in medicines fair — will not be easy. But the treatment target has unleashed a torrent of hope and that hope must not be betrayed. Our political leaders must know that there will be almighty fury if they do not deliver. The quarter of a million who marched in Edinburgh and the billions who watched Live8 represent a political generation hungry for justice. I hope that on World Aids Day in 2010 they can say that they helped to deliver it for those 40 million people living with HIV.

The politicians have just 60 months to keep their word. I’ll be watching every step of the way.

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