Africa Embraces Anti-Retroviral Use
Times of Zambia (Ndola)
March 22, 2003
Posted to the web March 24, 2003
Whenever the issue of using drug
therapies to treat AIDS in Africa came up in the last decade,
many people argued that it couldn't be done there.
The mantra was that "Africa doesn't
have the infrastructure to be able to distribute
(anti-retroviral) drugs because they wouldn't be kept on the
proper time-frame and protocols wouldn't be established, says
President George W Bush's special advisor, Jendayi Frazer, who
is also senior director for Africa at the National Security
That argument, though faulty, she says,
is what prompted the president's announcement in his state of
the union address of an emergency plan for AIDS relief, a
five-year, US $15,000 million initiative that will build up
Africa's health infrastructure.
It is aimed to give the most afflicted
countries in Africa and the Caribbean the weapons to fight and
win war against HIV/ AIDS, in part by introducing widespread
use of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs.
Speaking to a packed conference at the
Mayflower Hotel in Washington on March 7 commemorating
International Women's Day, Frazer said the president's
emergency AIDS plan "is very much focused on trying to
build the health infrastructure so that anti-retrovirals (ARV's)
can be widely distributed in Africa; it's very much focused on
the treatment side."
The event, featuring a discussion on
"Women and Orphans : The Face of AIDS in Africa,"
was hosted by the United Nations Information Centre, which was
created through a $1,000 million from cable television
impresario Ted Turner.
The priority of this emergency plan,
Frazer continued, is specifically to prevent seven million new
infections and provide ARVs for at least two million
While the plan's initial focus is in
Botswana, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya,
Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria,
Rwanda, and Zambia, Frazer adds: "What we expect is that
President Bush will scale that up again 'include other
countries' as we see these programmes have effect on the
However, she added: "Our approach
is not simply focused on treatment," and she mentioned a
recent conference on palliative care-- to moderate the
intensity and reduce the violence of AIDS-- recently conducted
by Joseph O'Neil, director of the White House office of AIDS
Putting money into the global fund to
fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, is a further effort
"to leverage funding and we have a commitment to try to
mobilise international resources," Frazer said.
President Bush has said "we need a
second round of pledges."
She added that the United States is
"deeply committed to the global fund; we have put
(secretary of health and human services 'Tommy' Thompson as
chairman of the board of that fund to demonstrate our
The United States has made "three
pledges: The first one was $200 million, then up to $500
million and then to $1,500 million," Frazer said.
Adding that before the United States
makes another pledge, other countries - "Canada, France,
Japan, and the Netherlands, Russia, and Britain, who have made
first round pledges that are about to expire must renew
pledging. So we do see the global fund as leveraging and
acting on all fronts.
"Clearly, we all know how important
prevention is, to stop the disease by particularly focusing on
education and working with African leaders to make this a high
priority," Frazer said.
"President Bush, when meeting with
African heads of states, always asks what is the state of HIV/
AIDS in their country; what the prevalence rates and what are
they working on; what their strategies are to help prevent it
and to treat those infected. So it is in fact a comprehensive
Asked why it is taking so long to
implement the new emergency funds for African AIDS, Frazer
said. "The pledge is $2,500 million, but only one million
has been dispersed on the ground (in Africa).
"The administration is not going to
commit more money until we actually see programmes on the
ground operating. It is a very phased approach. It's not
enough to just commit more money."
She reaffirmed that "the
president's commitment is unquestionable. As we see the
programmes operating, more money will flow. But it makes no
sense to commit more money over the $1,500 million before we
even set up the programmes to (use) that money."
A participant from the embassy of Malawi
said she was "one of the Africans who was very, happy to
hear about the $15,000 million the current administration has
pledged towards fighting HIV/ AIDS."
However, she said, she was dismayed to
learn that "there were some countries that were
excluded," and asked if they would be included at some
Frazer answered: "Yes. What
happened with the emergency plan is that it was focused on the
14 countries that were part of the mother- child transmission
initiative. The 12 in Africa serve as 'focus' countries."
Other US- funded programmes are also
helping in the prevention and treatment of AIDS, she said,
including regular bilateral assistance programmes, whether run
by the centres for Disease Control (CDC) or the US Agency for
International Development (USAID) or another body.
"And so other countries are
receiving US funding in HIV/AIDS," Fazer said. "In
the implementation of this programme, we would certainly look
to work particularly in Africa, with strong regional
organisations like the Southern Africa Development Community (SADAC)
to try to get that treatment and health infrastructure built
"And so while I can't say at this
moment that we will add this particular country or that
particular country, there is a commitment to try to continue
(funding) the Global Fund, and, perhaps in the implementation
of the Emergency Plan, make sure that anti-retrovirals go
beyond those 14 focus countries and the Caribbean community
The ambassadors of Cyprus, Zambia and
Mozambique were in attendance as well as a prize- winning
national public radio reporter (Brenda Wilson received a
Kaiser Foundation award to study AIDS in South Africa) and
others who are working to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS