April Fool's! No AIDS $$ For You!

By Nina Sachdev
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 11 | Posted Apr. 1, 2010

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Today, AIDS activists chided Rep. Chaka Fattah and Sen. Arlen Specter in the most bizarre way possible, probably because it's April Fool's Day or something.

They came dressed as Publisher's Clearing House "officials," as the press release calls them, and delivered a $9B check to the legislators, saying it was the amount Congress had promised to give to AIDS programs. In 2008, the presser says, Congress voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize the U.S. Global AIDS Plan.

Activist Antonio Davis said: "People with AIDS in developing countries aren't going to get money to pay for life-saving medicine by hitting the jackpot. Doctors aren't going to be able to buy the supplies they need to diagnose HIV by winning the lottery. And Congress isn't going to come up with the $9 billion by winning Publisher's Clearing House. It's up to Fattah and Specter, as members of the Appropriations Committees, to fight for $9 billion for global AIDS in 2010."

Them's fighting' words.

And now it's time for...PhillyNow plays devil's advocate:

"People with AIDS in developing countries aren't going to get money to pay for life-saving medicine by hitting the jackpot."

True. And they probably won't get money any other way, either. The Council on Foreign Relations, an international, nonpartisan think tank, says that in 2002, corruption cost all of Africa $150 billion a year. In 2008, $22.5 billion in aid was given to the continent. Yeah, it's sickening.

AIDS activists are looking for Congress to make good on their $9B promise. People suffering from AIDS need adequate medicine and care. No one is disputing that. And no one is disputing that these activists, the people who are fighting the good fight, should be commended. But when nothing's being won, maybe it's time to change up the strategy.

"Doctors aren't going to be able to buy the supplies they need to diagnose HIV by winning the lottery."

Nope. But they can continue or start fighting the widespread corruption in developing countries (corruption anywhere, really), which occurs on all levels, all scales. Bribing a cop in Africa ain't no thing. Maybe bribing a doctor isn't, either.

And Congress isn't going to come up with the $9 billion by winning Publisher's Clearing House. It's up to Fattah and Specter, as members of the Appropriations Committees, to fight for $9 billion for global AIDS in 2010."

No, it isn't. It isn't "up" to Congress to throw money at Africa, knowing most of it will end up in the hands of the rich and greedy. It's up to ALL of us, most especially Africa, to get rid of these money-hungry dictators who are keeping their own people down. These are god-awful crimes against humanity. And the fact that this mess is still happening—after countless studies and news articles have publicized the problem—is testament to the U.N.'s and other humanitarian organizations' failures.

How about we stop throwing money at Africa all together? The U.S. can't be everyone's big brother, not now anyway. We've got too many problems of our own. It's unfortunate that Congress promised the funds and then went back on its word. But isn't that what politicians do? Besides, Specter is busy flip-flopping on civil liberties and trying to win re-election, among other things.

If you'd like to learn more, head to the 1:30 p.m. rally today at Walnut btw Broad and 15th.

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Comments 1 - 11 of 11
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1. Kaytee Riek said... on Apr 1, 2010 at 05:54PM

“Generally, I appreciate efforts to play "devil's advocate". But your continued emphasis on "corruption" as the reason why the US shouldn't give money to fund AIDS drugs in Africa is unfounded. First off, *US government funding does not go to governments*. So those "corrupt" "dictators" (like South Africa's Jacob Zuma, who is democratically elected?) you refer to aren't going to get any of the money from us. In fact, the money goes to fund non-governmental organizations that are close to the community, providing vital (and, oftentimes, lifesaving) medical care to people who might otherwise die because they happened to be born in a poor country. The corruption argument is simply not accurate, even if playing devil's advocate!

Second, we don't throw money at Africa and hope for the best. We have specific goals and timetables that the US Congress set, that are based on what is possible and needed. So please, if you're going to play "devil's advocate", at least get the facts right.”

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2. Erica Goldberg said... on Apr 1, 2010 at 06:59PM

“You're right, simply throwing money at a situation never works. However, Congress made a strategic move when they appropriated the $9 billion into program they knew were highly effective. PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria are two of the best chances we have at fighting this global crisis. You're correct that fighting corruption will help put an end to the root of the problem. But investing money in life saving drugs and paying healthcare workers to teach about prevention and distribute the meds is absolutely necessary. Meanwhile, we are spending billions of dollars in military spending trying to protect our world, it's only worth to invest a fraction of that into programs we know work. And it's not just AIDS initiatives, but global education programs are vital as well and play a huge role in combating global poverty and disease. Now those are causes I'd rally behind any day! (and yes, it is the responsibility of the US and other foreign powers to take the lead).”

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3. Max Ray said... on Apr 1, 2010 at 07:28PM

“Big brother is a pretty apt description of the U.S.'s role in Africa. I'm a big brother, I know. Growing up, I tormented my little sister, blamed her for stuff I did, rigged games so that I beat her at everything, and laughed at her when she got frustrated.

The United States government and corporations are just that kind of bullying big brother. Our corporations extract African resources (think South African diamond mines, Nigerian oil, Congolese minerals that make cell phones work) and the profit stays in U.S. hands.

Ideally, the U.S. should solve the problems in Africa by forgiving debt and letting African countries nationalize their resources and return land to farmers. Meanwhile, helping Africans pay the (U.S. corporations' absurdly high) cost of their AIDS drugs seems like a small price to pay.

For more info, check out http://actupphilly.blogspot.com”

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4. yetta said... on Apr 1, 2010 at 08:26PM

“just because they are corrupt does not mean that they should not get deined life saving treatment that is needed...my Question to the writer is how many people do you know that has die or got hiv/aids tb malari.....and how many more people will have to die or get sicker because they don't have the stuff they need to stay alive....so everything you said about being corrupt is not even call for....there are if my memory has not failed me yet there are 57 people that gonna die every15 min”

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5. Mr Paul J. Yabor said... on Apr 1, 2010 at 09:15PM

“The corruption clause for withdrawing financial support that is already pledged is at best immoral and at worst criminal. It is amazing that we allow our financial institutions to practically destroy this country with corruption and not blink an eye to bail them out (just to watch them continue to spend frivolously on bonuses and retreats ) Yet when it comes to saving a significant portion of the population of a continent we react with hypocritical propaganda. We are talking about stemming the GLOBAL spread and treatment not only of HIV but also of TB and Malaria as well.
So lets cut to the chase.: When the US fails to meet its pledged commitment. No other country shall be compelled to do so. The end result is that even simple disease prevention equipment like mosquito nets will not be as available. More people will die and an even greater world wide health crises shall be created”

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6. John B said... on Apr 2, 2010 at 08:15AM

“Nina, judging by your confusion on whether the demonstration was an April Fool's Day joke I imagine you were also surprised to learn that google changed it's name to Topeka yesterday. The demonstration was staged on April Fool's Day to highlight the cruel joke that the US has played on Africa and the rest of the developing world by 1) incompetent financial regulation that led to worldwide international financial ruin, and 2) then using the international recession as an excuse to balance budgets on the back's of poor people and cut promised funding for vital global health programs, which are now more needed than ever. It is pretty cruel joke to play indeed.

Investments in global health are a crucial part of US health and security as well. HIV has become a global pandemic exactly because of government indifference. Continuing to ignore will only cause a blowback from increased HIV mutations and drug resistance. Lastly, treating HIV lowers viral loads, so treatment is prevention!”

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7. Bob K said... on Apr 2, 2010 at 10:42AM

“What a stupid racist article!
Using your logic about no funding when there is corruption in Africa, I guess we should stop paving roads and reimbursing insurance companies in the USA because there is corruption; shut down all the banks because of Enron, etc?
The AIDS funding to Africa is more carefully checked than most of our domestic and other foreign programs.”

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8. Jose de Marco said... on Apr 2, 2010 at 12:18PM

“Wow. What racism! Maybe we should apply that same twisted logic to this country. Corrupt banks and insurance companies. Are we not a corrupt nation as well. The point is millions of people (mostly Africans) are going to die horrible and painful deaths because our legislators made a commitment to sick and dying people that are depending on promised funding for medication to live. Then writing an article that's dripping in racism, hate, and indifference, but I guess you really mirror the mean spirit of a lot of people in this country. Thanks for the insight.”

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9. Lucky S. Michaels said... on Apr 2, 2010 at 12:32PM

“Unfortunately we keep making plans and making promises, yet all the money and support goes to the only 30% worldwide which have access to the life saving meds. Seems like the Devil's Advocate would like to keep the Apartheid on Meds for the affluent rich countries. This is wrong on so many levels and we all know it. If anybody overseas wants or needs my meds, I would be happy to send them... I don't want to take them as long as people like this are trying to prevent us from getting the other 70% the lifesaving meds they need!”

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10. Amanda said... on Apr 3, 2010 at 07:13AM

“"Devil's Advocate" is not an actual journalistic skill. "Devil's Advocate" is the debate equivalent of starting a college paper "Webster's dictionary defines [keyword] as..." If you don't feel like actually researching your topics, don't get a job at a newspaper.”

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11. cliffwms44 said... on Apr 5, 2010 at 03:06PM



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