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Bernard Schwartlander of the UN Aids programme
"I sincerely hope this is a turning point in the epidemic"
 real 28k

Frank Eckardt, Botswana
"There are a lot of social and cultural problems"
 real 28k

Paul Stancer, Hong Kong
"I think the message is getting across"
 real 28k

Marjorie Craig, California
"We are wasting a lot of energy"
 real 28k

Martin Dadswell, London
"I was on 27 different tablets every day"
 real 28k

Stu Cohen, New York
"I think leadership is critical"
 real 28k

Dave Pearce, Manchester, UK
"Aids drugs can come down to 10% of the normal price"
 real 28k

Bernard Schwartlander responds to Dave Pearce
"You can't just come in and drop a suitcase of drugs"
 real 28k

Mark Conlan, San Diego, USA
"Africans continue to die of easily preventable diseases due to poverty"
 real 28k

Mervyn Button, Oporto, Portugal
"Personal self-discipline must be strengthened by government"
 real 28k

Halford Dace, Cape Town, South Africa
"Mbeki was questioning whether Aids can be treated as an issue in isolation"
 real 28k

Chim Kamanga-Petit, Paris, France
"Women must be armed with knowledge and jobs"
 real 28k

Selva Appasawmy, Mauritius
"Mbeki is just giving a voice to the dissident scientists"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 25 July, 2000, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
Can Aids be defeated?

Former South African president Nelson Mandela has closed the Aids conference in Durban with a call to unity in the fight against the disease.


My concern is with my children. I know I will die of Aids. If I can live for another two years till my daughter is in grade 12 then I will be happy.

Lucky Barnabus, South Africa
But is the world drowning amidst conflicting messages?

What do you think is the way forward in the fight against Aids?

This week's debate on Talking Point ON AIR, the phone-in programme of the BBC World Service and BBC News Online, aired your views on the Aids crisis in Africa and around the world.

Robin Lustig presented the programme and was joined by the UN Aids programme's Bernard Schwartlander from Geneva.

Clink on the link below to watch and listen to Talking Point On Air

Your comments since the programme:

As the AIDS hysteria spreads, I have heard a lot of misinformation creeping back into some radio talk shows in my country - particularly that AIDS was created by the West to annihilate blacks. What's needed is more rational information and education on HIV to stem the tide of such ignorance on the subject. While a cure for AIDS appears nowhere in sight, dramatic changes in behavioural patterns can certainly help.
O. James, Jamaica

As an African I believe that we should speak out the problem. In Ethiopia for example, when someone dies with all the symptoms of AIDS no one says he died from AIDS. People tell you that he was playing out in the cold and without giving attention a minor pneumonia has killed him. So everybody believes that way and says he has not seen anyone, who died of AIDS. So, let us call AIDS AIDS and a COLD a COLD. Then people start believing that they have seen AIDS.
Tsegaye, Ethiopia/Germany


Whenever I visit Africa, I am always disheartened to note the growing disparity between the development of Africa and the rest of the world,

Ajay, UK
Whenever I visit Africa, I am always disheartened to note the growing disparity between the development of Africa and the rest of the world, particularly other developing nations. So much wasted time/opportunities/ talent in dealing with corruption, famine, wars, etc. whilst the rest of the world is busy making the most of their time in some form of productive capacity or other, widening the gulf further. It seems that everyone is aspiring to reach new highs in productivity levels, technical knowledge, etc except Africa.
Ajay, UK

The so called activists holding conferences in high places and, living in luxury beach resorts in Durban ought to look at the millions of poor people dying of the disease because they cannot afford the drugs. They ought to be ashamed of themselves and try for a change to listen to themselves. It is such misconceived approach to the disease that is the undoing of our continent. What did the Durban conference achieve now? Shame on all those delegates!
Roselyn Mungai, Kenya


Has there ever been a disease easier to prevent than AIDS?

B. Kowal, USA
Has there ever been a disease easier to prevent than AIDS? The critics of Catholicism and Islam overlook their very sane teachings: marry a virgin, and don't stray. The money would be better spent finding a cure for breast cancer which can equally kill your mother, sister, wife and daughter.
B. Kowal, USA

President Mbeki pointed out the real problem in Africa is poverty. This in turn has been massively exacerbated by overpopulation due largely to outmoded breeding practices. It was once important to have 5-6 children as one could expect half to die early in life and their labour was needed. Infrastructure of all kinds cannot possibly hope to cope with an annual growth rate of 5% or more. Everyone needs to realise the benefit of having 1-2 healthy, well provided for children as opposed to 5-6 that one cannot support. Education is the best answer to problems of this nature.
John McNiece, USA

Perhaps these people should be taught simple facts that have been known to the western world for some time. For example, there is no way you can have sex with multiple partners and guarantee safety from HIV. The risks can be mitigated but the only 100% safe method is abstinence. Of course, such a view is widely regarded as being small-minded so it's unlikely anything will come of it.
Willy Davidson, UK


To me this is a global issue. Let us fight it together

Jemius Shumba, Zimbabwe
The question of HIV and AIDS should be addressed with much effort in both the poor countries and the rich developed countries. Focussing on only Third World countries will have a spill effect of continuous infection from other parts of the world. To me this is a global issue. Let us fight it together. If the world stops for a moment to think how much money is spent in unnecessary wars, then the idea of diverting the resources to combating HIV and AIDS should be on the top agenda for the world.
Jemius Shumba, Zimbabwe

All this talk about who is to blame. In the end we cannot cure any virus, perhaps HIV will be the first one we cure? Perhaps people can be made to be so careful that AIDS dies out in a few generations? The prognosis is not good; perhaps in the end it will eradicate humanity.
Chris Hann, USA


Think how much money was spent on the 13th World Conference on HIV/ AIDS in Durban last week

Roselyn Mungai, Kenya
Think how much money was spent on the 13th World Conference on HIV/ AIDS in Durban last week. Think of the cost of over 10,000 air tickets from all over the world. Think of the hotel accommodation and meal costs for all the delegates. Think of the conference bags and stationery then consider the poor AIDS sufferers who cannot afford a decent meal, let alone HIV drugs. All this while activists are living in posh beach side hotel rooms in Durban and claiming to be contributing to the fight against HIV.
Roselyn Mungai, Kenya

The role of the major religions in Africa needs to be considered. Unless and until the two major religions of the region, Islam and Catholicism put common sense before discredited dogma, and encourage the use of condoms, then government campaigns will largely be wasted. Here is a chance for the two religions to show that they CAN work in the interests of their members, rather than, as is usually the case, against them.
Dave Harvey, UK

It is certain that the German government under Helmut Kohl has done nothing to fight Aids. The new German government under Schröder is continuing this "tradition". My question is, when will Germany together with the whole Europe finally wake up? A vaccine or a cure can only be found in western laboratories. What they need is a strong support by their governments which is still not coming so far.
Manfred, Germany


Aids is present in every corner, we need to prevent the growth of it

Lucia Paz, Brazil
Nowadays Aids is one of the most important subjects to be discussing. In Africa millions of children and adults are dying every year. But this problem is happening in all parts of the world, not only in Africa.
The UN needs to do something to help this kind of problem, because I'm sure that if they don't do anything in the future, the situation will become worse.
Aids is present in every corner, we need to prevent the growth of it. Africa is a very poor continent, and the people who live there have never had a good grounding in life. They don't know how fatal aids can be - the result is certain death.
Lucia Paz, Brazil

I think Aids is always linked with poverty. People have poor education in their poor countries. Women and men do not realise that it is important to have safe sex - it is not just for themselves, it is for a whole generation.
Yisha, China


Aids is one of the bad results of our misbehaviour

Meena, Switzerland
You know that each action has got a reaction. If the human being - the souls (the only purest thing in this world)- does a bad thing, e.g. killing animals, gambling, having unnecessary sex, taking drugs, the consequences will be bad. And AIDS is one of the bad results of our misbehaviour.
Meena, Switzerland

I think that African problems with thousands of people dying because of Aids is caused because people have no idea about this disease. The governments do nothing to try to explain to people what can cause Aids and what they can do to avoid this terrible disease.
Maybe better education and higher levels of medical services could stop the spread of Aids.
Olga, Poland


It is important to give medicines free of charge to the people who have Aids, given that these medicines are very expensive

Mariana Deperon, Brazil
All countries have suffered with this terrible and incurable disease. Some governments have made investments in health areas to try to discover the cure for this disease.
But it is important to give medicines free of charge to the people who have Aids, given that these medicines are very expensive.
The governments of poor countries do not help the poor people that have this illness. They prefer to worry about other areas, not so important as health. Maybe an international member like the UN can interfere in these countries and give them some money to buy medicine supplies for poor people.
It is confirmed that the poor countries have the biggest percentages of Aids in their population. So, it is time to help these countries.
Mariana Deperon, Brazil

Personally I feel that Africans are completely unaware of the outside forces that are plotting their demise and eventual death. It is no coincidence that this continent is plagued with wars, famine, and disease while the western powers look on with a smile.
Olivier Rombouts, Belgium

AIDS is spread in Africa because the society seems to underestimate its impact. Even in funeral where people die from AIDS, family members never say that the person die from AIDS. TB, cancer etc have been mentioned as the cause. If we really want to contain AIDS then we must address the AIDS issue in its totality. That is its spread, poverty and ignorance are not excuses.
Conrad, UK


The issue here is not only the cure for AIDS, but the poverty and illiteracy that drives the vicious cycle of hunger, disease, wars and natural calamities to name a few of the problems.

Ali Ghafoori, Afghanistan
AIDS is but yet another manifestation of the poverty and misfortune that has befallen Africa. The issue here is not only the cure for AIDS, but the poverty and illiteracy that drives the vicious cycle of hunger, disease, wars and natural calamities to name a few of the problems. Perhaps we need to look beyond the mere issue of curative drugs to solve the solution for once. Humanity's conscience can never be at ease unless Africa's fortunes are improved.
Ali Ghafoori, Afghanistan

Drug companies, capitalism and colonialism do not cause AIDS. Behaviour does. Ignorant, reckless and dangerous sexual relations do. Period. These acts have infected the blood supply and passed this disease to newborns. It's not economics. It's morality. Learn and live.
Peter C. Kohler, USA

From a Western point of view, its down to economics. From an African point of view, its behaviour and education. AIDS will decimate Africa if nothing is done.
Kurt, UK

I think it is time for all nations to all 'chip in' to finance adequate research to come up with a new cure for this disease. Russia ought to quit making weapons that are being shipped to third world countries and so should the Chinese. And, the U.S. along with allies needs to do the same. Let's quit making these nasty things and spend the money in such a way that everybody benefits.
Dave Adams, USA


A law by South Africa giving domestic companies licences at lower prices to produce AZT was shot down by the oh-so-free-trade WTO

GT, Italy/USA
There is a lot of talk here about "subsidising" and "help" in connection to AIDS-related medicines and poor African countries. This is misleading: South Africa and even other African countries could well afford to produce enough drugs to to treat millions of infected people. What prevents them are, largely not production costs but the "intellectual property costs" enforced by arbitrary and outdated international treaties. Recently a law by South Africa which would give domestic companies licences at lower prices to produce AZT was shot down by the oh-so-free-trade WTO on the grounds that it ran against intellectual property treaties. We don't have to "give" these countries medicines, just allow them to produce their own.
GT, Italy/USA

Whilst poverty is a factor that cannot be ignored in this whole debate it can't be the overriding issue - Bangladesh and India don't seem to have a problem with HIV/AIDS whilst they do have a problem with poverty. This must point towards a behavioural cause to this epidemic.
Rob, England

I think its appalling that these drugs are not available to all those who need them. I am fed up with the amount that has been given/spent in the rich western world to gay organisations for Aids patients, who ignore the needs of gays with other diseases. I write this from a personal viewpoint as in 1992 I developed Leukaemia, and as a gay man approached gay organisations in the UK where I was living and received absolutely no support, nor did I on returning to Australia.
Mooloolah, Australia

I am Ugandan, currently in Germany. I don't think there is a family in Uganda that has not been affected by HIV-Aids. I am very grateful to our President, Yoweri Museveni, for never being ashamed to raise the issue in public and for all he and many others have done to raise awareness of the problem and for helping to bring down the numbers of those affected. The comments of the South African president I fail to understand and I doubt very much whether they will help the people of South Africa in their fight against Aids.
Nakato, Germany/Uganda

Many of your correspondents seem to assume that the prosperity we enjoy in the West is the norm but it was only in recent memory that such diseases like TB and polio were conquered in Europe and America. Many diseases were beaten largely because drug companies and others working within the free market system. Compelling or blackmailing drug companies to provide subsidised medicines will not be the best long-term solution.
Robert Stewart, Bermuda

Return to the top of the page


Your comments during the programme:

HIV/Aids is a big problem in Botswana - 30% of the people here seem to be affected. People are very well educated about the disease but the behaviour of people isn't changing.
Frank Eckardt, Gaborone, Botswana

We have to tell people to use a condom when they have sex. Certain groups are using Aids to spread a moral message. The Catholic church must change their belief that people who catch Aids deserve it.
Paul Stancer, Hong Kong

I would like more money spent on prevention and less on conferences. I have been HIV positive for seven years and have been taking combination therapy for several years. I'm taking very toxic drugs every day of my life and am unable to work.
Martin Dadswell, London

The conference had brought about world leadership. We can do something about it - treatment, prevention, and changing attitudes. We have to destigmatise sex. Society has to be more enlightened about peoples' behaviours.
Stu Cohen, New York, USA

If the cost of Aids drugs can come down to 10% of the normal price, what is the real marginal cost of manufacture? Aids is an extreme example of the differences in healthcare between Africa and the West. The UN is too tied up with bureacracy and appeasing power-blocs. Isn't there an African organisation that can try to find its own solutions, working with its own communities?
Dave Pearce, Manchester, UK

Why doesn't the UN purchase the drugs licenses and make them freely available to the whole world?
Steve Cairns, London, UK

I congratulate President Mbeki because he wants to re-evaluate everything we know about Aids. A massive diversion of resources to research on Aids wouldn't necessarily help Africa. The African health crisis goes beyond anything we can attribute to a single virus. Africans continue to die of easily preventable diseases related to poverty.
Mark Conlan, San Diego, USA


Renowned scientists face all sorts of difficulties in daring to have divergent views

Selva Appasawmy, Mauritius
I'm not a scientist but I am surprised at the press attacks on Thabo Mbeki. He is just giving a voice to the dissident scientists. There is another story of scientific intolerance associated with Aids. It is about how Aids started. The hypothesis advanced by renowned British scientists such as the late Bill Hamilton and Edward Hooper after much research, is that the AIDS pandemic started with an experimental polio vaccine given to more than a million Africans in the former Belgian colonies of Central Africa between 1957 and 1960.
Selva Appasawmy, Mauritius

President Mbeki has never said that HIV doesn't cause Aids. He said he would strengthen South Africa's efforts to prevent Aids. There is overwhelming proof that there is a causal link between the HIV virus and the disease.
Bernard Schwartlander comments

Gays and drug-takers in the western world lack self-discipline and in Africa women are abused or are weak. Personal self-discipline must be strengthened by government. The destructive forces are television, Hollywood and the permissive society originatin from the 1960's.
Mervyn Button, Oporto, Portugal

Dissident scientists never had a problem finding a voice. But some issues are pretty much settled. A lot of what Mbeki was saying was about whether Aids can be treated as an issue in isolation. I don't believe it can.
Halford Dace, Cape Town, South Africa

The problem of poverty is a focal point. You have a vicious circle where the haves are exploiting the have-nots. Women without jobs may prostitute themselves. Women must be armed with knowledge and jobs. Some people seem to be in total denial. They don't know which door to knock on.
Chim Kamanga-Petit, Paris, France

We have a serious situation - not just in Africa - but Africa is faced with the most difficult challenge. I disagree with the emphasis on the dichotomy between Aids and poverty. We are wasting a lot of energy on this debate.
Marjorie Craig, California, USA

Return to the top of the page


Your comments before we went ON AIR:


If the world needs to control and eventually eradicate AIDS, we need to improve the standards of living in the most vulnerable countries.

Hankie, Zambian in USA
AIDS is directly linked to poverty. AIDS thrives in countries with high poverty levels, illiteracy (as seen among the black South Africans), war torn countries, etc. The fact that AIDS has migrated to all parts of the world, but seem to affect mostly the Sub Saharan countries helps conclude that it is intertwine with the GDP of a country. Its rather an Economical disease than anything else. Developed nations have HIV/AIDS victims but the rate it affects and spreads in these societies is not so alaming because of several factors such as diet, working conditions, mode of transport, housing and a lot of other basic necessities. If the world needs to control and eventually eradicate AIDS, we need to improve the standards of living in the most vulnerable countries.
Hankie, Zambian in USA

While everyone is trying to look for something to blame for this calamity there are people who are dying by the day. At this point instead of wasting time blaming someone, people ought to work on finding an effective way to reduce the number of people getting infected by HIV. African governments NEED to increase their education to the public about AIDS. Governments can help by providing accurate information. While science is in search of a cure, people need to at least be informed.
Moon, USA

What's most dangerous is the false dichotomy between prevention and treatment. Risky behaviours often cause AIDS. Poverty often puts people in positions where they have to engage in risky behaviours. Lack of treatment means that the disease is still around to be spread even if the behaviours aren't inherently risky (breast-feeding, for example). The crisis will not relent until three factors are addressed: education, poverty and treatment. Any course of action which addresses only one or two of these issues will inevitably fail.
Brian Farenell, USA

Aids in Africa is devastating and there is need for positive action. It may be time to listen to Mbeki and tackle the other related diseases (e.g. tuberculosis, fever etc.) that are related to aids and may be worsening the situation. After all, Aids is about resistance of the human body to the virus and these diseases make things worse. His views should not be dismissed outright.
S.S Adzei, Ghana


Abstinence certainly is the best prevention, but on a population level, it is unreasonable to expect people to abstain

Robert McDonald, USA, Formerly Zambia
I have lived in Africa and in the West, and I have visited about 20% of the nations on our globe. HIV infection, like many societal ills, is a result of human nature. Like bad debt, murder, selfishness, and greed, AIDS will persist as a result of the nature of humankind to procreate. Abstinence certainly is the best prevention, but on a population level, it is unreasonable to expect people to abstain. Prevention through aggressive education campaigns which are supported by local governments must be implemented now, today, this year! And patents on treatment regimens for HIV infection should not be effective outside of the country of origin.
Robert McDonald, USA, Formerly Zambia

Once again, the blame is laid at the Western world's feet. When the colonial powers left, these were self-supporting countries that were net exporters of food and products. Now they are basket cases where aid is their main means of acquiring foreign currency. The drug companies spend million/billions of their own money to develop and test these treatments and diseases. They cannot stay in business and develop these drugs, unless they make money. Until the emancipation of women occurs in these poor impoverished countries, there is no hope for Africa. I've even heard stories of family planning workers saying men were taking the birth control pills, because women were too stupid to remember. With the rapid spread of Islam, the African religion, the emancipation of women is a distant fading dream.
Collin, Canada

HIV/AIDS is an infectious disease. It is transmitted knowingly and unknowingly by behaviours that are deemed both licit and illicit across cultures. It is absolutely useless, and a potent form of denial, to excuse the continuing spread of the virus to ignorance. There is ample information, but an absence of courage among leaders to be willing to constructively analyze the belief systems which encourage the denial. Drugs and vaccines will not fix the problem. The virus seeks only to replicate itself and has done so very successfully, in a world population with a hundred excuses to deny this basic fact.
Jane Webb, United States


As I've read reports from the South African AIDS conference the HIV/AIDS model has just sounded sillier and sillier

Mark Conlan, United States of America
Thank God for South African President Mbeki! So much utter nonsense had been uttered by so-called "scientists" attempting to rehabilitate the belief that all the complications of AIDS can be traced to a single virus (a delusion that will one day be placed next to Ptolemy's astronomy and Lysenko's genetics in the Bad Science Hall of Infamy) it has taken a world leader with Mbeki's courage, honed in the struggle against apartheid, to tell the simple truth: that what is commonly called "AIDS" is only a fraction of the health crisis facing his country and his continent. As I've read reports from the South African AIDS conference the HIV/AIDS model has just sounded sillier and sillier, and the convoluted "logic" which attempts to sustain it just more and more bizarre. Once again, thank God for Thabo Mbeki - and let us hope his example will give courage to other African and world leaders to re-examine the issues surrounding AIDS and not blindly accept the self-serving pronouncements of well-funded researchers and pharmaceutical companies seeking to continue to make money off this tragedy.
Mark Conlan, United States of America


What Africans need more than AZT are education, democracy and fair trading arrangements

Andrew Witham, UK
Poverty is the real killer. How can you expect people to be worried about something that may cause them a problem in years to come when their immediate problems of disease and hunger may kill them this week? What Africans need more than AZT are education, democracy and fair trading arrangements. Then they will have the choices that they need to build their own future rather than the one we think might be good for them.
Andrew Witham, UK

I do not know if HIV can be eradicated, but it can be controlled and contained. Medicines for all contagious diseases should be a right not a privilege. Living in a world with increasingly open borders these diseases affect us all, not just one nation, a person or a lifestyle. Many religious leaders have to stop clinging on to antiquated dogma, and face reality. It is also immoral to profit from drugs while millions die because they cannot afford expensive medicines.
Shiran Vyasa, Canada

Advanced Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) can only be prevented by encouraging people to get married early to chaste partners, and preventing fornication. Anything else will lead to the increase of AIDS.
Ahmed Hayat, Sudan, now in UK

The spread of aids in Africa is in the Africans' own hands, it doesn't cost money to stop having unprotected sex.
M.Marshall, uk


Maybe it's time to face the fact that abstinence promotion is a more effective and sustainable method of reducing HIV infection

Sarah, UK
Unsurprisingly HIV infection spreads in any country where casual sex is promoted and facilitated. Maybe, it's time to face the fact that abstinence promotion is a more effective and sustainable method of reducing HIV infection. Even here in the UK condom promotion is failing to halt HIV infection rates.
Sarah, UK

Africa has got to get out of this culture of blaming every ill on a colonial past or western economic policies. The 'west' has shown willingness to help Africa, but in the past African governments and despots have made sure that any financial assistance goes to the wrong people. Whilst vehemently stating their independence from their former 'colonial masters', why do Africans claim western money and goodwill as some sort of birthright?
Alex, UK

Many more people die every year in developing nations of illnesses other than AIDS, the majority of which can be treated effectively today. Some, such as diarrhoea, would be considered trivial in the western world. AIDS is a high profile disease and we in the western world consider it the main killer in developing nations only because it can still affect us. Instead of pumping millions into an AIDS vaccine spend the money on freely distributing treatment for common illnesses we can cure now and not go on the recommendations of a high-profile Hollywood charity ball.
Antony Smith, UK

AIDS in Africa will not be defeated by anything short of a successful vaccination program such as that used against smallpox. Just because AIDS in Africa is sexually transmitted rather than airborne doesn't make it self-inflicted. The developed countries must dedicate themselves to creating a vaccine and then distributing it for free otherwise large parts of Africa will be depopulated.
Andrew Day, UK


The fault is clear. Capitalism and profit are the real culprits

Alex, UK
Some of the biggest drug multi- nationals made a profit of over 15 billion pounds last year. The cost of eradicating AIDS in Africa would be something like 2 billion pounds. The fault is clear. Capitalism and profit are the real culprits.
Alex, UK

Global economics are locked into a system of haves and have nots. When Aids visits such a poverty ridden world, where free sexual relationship maybe the only affordable luxury, can an alternative outcome exist? Let not any one from the developed world claim not to have multiple sexual partners, or to always indulge in protected sex. I see a very different behaviour.
Geoloo, Kenya

You don't need to spend that much money. You only need to give sex education to one person. The Pope.
James Desborough, UK


Those armchair prophets in far-away countries have no lessons of morality to teach Africans

Sango, USA
I am amazed at the palpable racist statements expressed here by western the audience. Why are European and American contributors in this forum so quick to accuse Africans of unchecked sexual practices? I have lived both in Africa and in the USA, and I see no evidence that Africans are having more sex than Americans. There are more ways of spreading AIDS than sex, but all that western audiences seem to prescribe is that Africans abandon their "primitive" sexual habits. AIDS is affecting Africa more than other continents, but so is a whole host of other ailments, diseases, famine, and endemic poverty. I think the weak link is poverty and illiteracy because you cannot easily carry out an education campaign with people who neither read, write, or understand the official language of a country. I have worked on AIDS education in African villages and those armchair prophets who sit in their rooms in far-away countries should try to listen to Africans for once. Europeans have no lessons of morality to teach Africans.
Sango, USA

The other day I went to the funeral of a friend who died of AIDS. She has not been able to work for 6 month, couldn't walk for 2, went blind 4 weeks ago stopped eating in the last 2 and couldn't talk in the last days. On the day she had died I had not seen her for about a month and I couldn't recognise her anymore.

At the end of the day AIDS is a social problem with medical symptoms. Its spread is based on the fact that people choose to act without responsibility or sense of choice. Here in Botswana the general level of education is high, people are informed about the virus and know how it spreads. But still rich and poor seem to be affected equally.


Botswana is showing that being informed makes no difference as it doesn't change behaviour

Frank Eckardt, Botswana
Reasons are promiscuity, children very often being conceived out of wedlock, condoms being regarded as a nuisance (catholic church here even encourages the use of condoms), women not being able to assert themselves, extensive migration of labour, prostitution a from of raising income in particular for single parent mothers, widespread denial that AIDS exists, nobody openly dying from the disease, nobody going for tests, rape and domestic violence being a problem. People don't care about getting the virus, spreading the virus or acting with responsibility before or after infection.

Lifestyles don't change. Overall Botswana is showing that being informed makes no difference as it doesn't change behaviour. This, despite the fact that funerals have reached astronomical levels and the papers are full of stories on AIDS. At the end of the day life goes on as if nothing is happening. How do you make people face the facts if the majority does not care? I don't know.
Frank Eckardt, Botswana


South Africa has the ability to produce the drugs, all they need is the license to do so

Val, USA
I was in South Africa during the "Old Apartheid Regime" and remember the efforts made to curtail the spread of AIDS. Radio, television and newspapers were all flooded with AIDS awareness messages. The rural areas were catered to by travelling "players" who combined entertainment with information and advice. Mobile clinics visited factories, racing stables etc, giving lectures and handing out condoms. Every clinic in the country displayed AIDS posters in the languages of the region. All these efforts were nullified by the message disseminated by the ANC, (and I personally heard a member make this statement), that the AIDS epidemic was a ploy by the Nationalist Government to decrease the African birth-rate and in this way stay in control forever. South Africa has the ability to produce the drugs, all they need is the license to do so. Other countries are producing generic versions. Millions of lives are at stake. Any company suing would be branded as murderous extortionists in the eyes of the world.
Val, USA

I was in Malawi recently and I got talking to a young guy who was involved with an organisation called "Image Youth Society". They travel around the country, particularly in rural areas, and try to educate young people about the dangers of AIDS and the importance of using condoms, but one of the biggest problems that they encounter is traditional beliefs and practices. For example, many young men believe that a traditional healer can cure them of the virus. Many more still believe that sleeping with a virgin will do the job. Condoms are available for free in all hospitals and medical centres but most people are too shy to ask for them - sex still very much a taboo subject in Malawi. In the mean time, people in are literally dropping like flies.
Caoimhe Whelan, Ireland (resident in Australia)


The HIV/ AIDS epidemic in Africa will never be conquered until the world gives rural and urban Africans a future to work towards

Andrew Meissner, USA
The HIV/ AIDS epidemic in Africa will never be conquered until the world gives rural and urban Africans a future to work towards. Many Africans do not think about AIDS because the most important part of their future concerns getting food, water, and housing the next day. Having Africans understand what may happen to them in a year or two is almost impossible. In a continent where premature death comes in so many forms, AIDS is just one more to add to the list.
Andrew Meissner, USA

I think all the conspiracy theories directed against the developed nations that are mentioned here say a lot about the problem. If the Africans believe that some other malicious force cause all the problems they have then they will never learn to cope with their problems. But then again it is always easier to stick your head in the sand and blame someone else. It is time these people grew up and took responsibility for themselves. Then MAYBE things would start to improve.
Carol, UK

For as long as the "right" to have free sex with any (consenting) partner is promoted AIDS will never be defeated. To defeat a disease like this, carriers should have to declare the fact and abstain from sexual relations with non-carriers.
Peter B, UK


This aids problem will not be solved by the west but by themselves

Mark, Germany
I feel that Africa is in danger of becoming the forgotten continent. Many times in the past westerners have tried to intervene in aiding famine and pestilence such as in Ethiopia and Sudan. But one gets the feeling that the leaders of these nations don't want outside intervention or meddling in their affairs unless there is a devastating crisis. Enlightened people such as President Mbeki are eclipsed by unreasonable tin pot dictators and hence this aids problem will not be solved by the west but by themselves.
Mark, Germany

From what I understand, HIV is not that easy to catch. It does not float around in the air and pick its victims at random. It is basically a behaviour-based virus, and is avoidable.
Richard, USA


It is not poverty that causes the spread of AIDS, but a culture that embraces frequent sexual contact with many different partners

Steve, USA
To defeat the rampant spread of AIDS, black Africans must accept that this is not a political issue, but one of culture. In Africa's search for a way to blame this on past European imperial rule, the real message is being lost. It is not poverty that causes the spread of AIDS, but a culture that embraces frequent sexual contact with many different partners. The voice of reason and common sense (Mrs Winnie Mandela) must be heard. The USA should subsidise all AIDS-related medication to Africa.
Steve, USA

In a continent where millions of people are illiterate, living on less than a dollar a day, without access to safe drinking water, chronically malnourished, an "expensive" disease like AIDS will spread like fire. AIDS will continue to spread in Africa not because the people do not wish to fight it, but because they CANNOT afford to fight it. It is reported that more than US$1.5 trillion is exchanged daily in the world's currency markets and that it costs only 1% of global income to eradicate poverty. In such a "wealthy" world, it is immoral to let millions of Africans die of HIV-AIDS just because they cannot afford the expensive drugs.
Danladi D. Kuta, Russia

Working in Malawi, I found people were confused and frightened by HIV/ AIDS. Much of the confusion was due to the mixed messages given out by NGOs. While some promote safe sex, many others are funded by religions that refuse to discuss sexual health and only preach abstinence. Some even claimed condoms cause illnesses!! With advice like this, how can Malawian girls and boys learn to make sensible decisions about safe sex? Africa needs to hear one clear coherent set of guidelines from scientists, religious leaders and her own governments, small scale education programmes are not enough.
Antonia Hamilton, UK

The Roman Catholic Church has to bear a great deal of responsibility for preaching that the use of condoms is "sinful". I hope the Vatican can sleep easy with millions of deaths as a result of their twisting scripture out of all context.
Tristan Abbott-Coates, UK/USA

In Uganda where there has been a sustained HIV/ AIDS campaign since 1987, we still have a rampant AIDS problem. I am inclined to dispute the success in halting the spread as reported in the media. In my family (extended), and I know my story is not unfamiliar, we buried someone every weekend last year. EVERY weekend. It is very hard for me to believe that the tide is being stemmed in any way. When I see the general sexual attitudes in Kampala, I see no hope at all.
Withheld (family reasons), UK/ Uganda


AIDS will only be defeated once the countries realise they are responsible for themselves and take charge of themselves

Rob Sykes, Australia
Under colonialism and all its evils, many African countries were net food/ value exporters. Independence was won/ granted and after a after few governments they become net food importers. It also seems that some countries decades later are still blaming the colonial powers for their problems. AIDS will only be defeated once the countries realise they are responsible for themselves and take charge of themselves, for independence only granted them the view and a view does not fill a stomach.
Rob Sykes, Australia

It was predicable from the onset that AIDS would do damage to Africa because of the existential realities of bad hygiene, hunger, unawareness, illiteracy, poor medical care and numerous irresponsible governments. As much as I personally feel very disturbed about the situation, it is my theory that AIDS started elsewhere and was introduced to Africa by both African and non-African travellers and visitors. Its transmission and spread in the continent have been perpetuated by certain customs and conditions in the different communities.
Dr. Joseph U. Igietseme, USA

I heard from a South African friend that advice leaflets and condoms have been passed out in SA. Unfortunately, the two were stapled together. I fear, fundamental mistakes like this will stall the recovery before it has even got off the ground.
WGS, UK

Africa's problem is two-fold. On the one hand, the high illiteracy rate, corrupt leadership and the general hopelessness of the continent and on the other hand, Western society's apathy towards Africa is responsible for the ever-deteriorating conditions. Only divine intervention or something of that magnitude can save Africa.
Ayo Akande, USA


President Mbeki's comments are irrelevant to the efforts required to find a cure for AIDS

Okurut, Canada

President Mbeki's comments are irrelevant to the efforts required to find a cure for AIDS. They are the comments of a person frustrated by the confusion surrounding the issue. In my view, the international community needs to address two critical aspects of the issue, which are; a) the high cost of drugs, and b) the recognition of the research being conducted by African doctors. On the issue of cost of drugs, the developed countries have been slow in convincing drug manufacturers to charge less for their valuable medications. In essence, drug companies are reaping fortunes at the expense of the suffering AIDS patients. Regarding research, quite a few African doctors have developed "potential AIDS cures", but their efforts seem to be unrecognised. Co-ordinating their efforts would go a long way in finding a cure but it seems the West will not recognise a remedy developed in Africa.
Okurut, Canada

By denying affordable drugs to Africans, the rich Western countries are practising "health care apartheid".
Lionel Magumbe, Canada

Africa is a continent in self-denial. Various countries, especially Nigeria, are all living in false beliefs of one-nationhood. The Europeans and other races have sorted out their problems and are living in the real world. Africa is still living in darkness and false beliefs that they can make their present situations work. Instead, it is ravaged with AIDS, poverty, and confusion.
Kienuwa Obaseki, Nigeria/ USA

The ridiculous comments made by President Thabo Mbeki that HIV is not the cause of AIDS may help him in the short term but are damning for his country and continent. Some have suggested that his is a corrupt regime that does not want to spend any money on HIV because he wants it for himself. Whether that is true or not will be open to scrutiny over time.

The fact that the drugs companies want to sell their drugs at a good rate of return is understandable. That notwithstanding, it would not be unreasonable for the UN to purchase the licence for treatments of prophylactics and make them widely available. This has been suggested before and rejected, but we just have not offered enough money. The price may be high, but not as high as the cost of the lives that are continuing to be lost.
Steve Cairns, UK (formerly Australia)


Africa has no chance of defeating AIDS unless we deal with it ourselves instead of relying on US/ EU poison-laced help

Anonymous, UK
I hate to be the prophet of doom, but Africa has no chance of defeating AIDS unless we deal with it ourselves instead of relying on US/ EU poison-laced help. People who have enslaved us, colonised us, sold arms to despotic stooges in Africa and continue to wreck economic havoc on us (IMF, World Bank) cannot be trusted to stem the tide of AIDS. Their offers of help are quite frankly disingenuous and patronising. Why do you think that they are trying to test vaccines of the strains found in Europe/ US on Africans? I would not be surprised if they created the AIDS virus to make our demise swifter.
Anonymous, UK

I would like to begin by saying that since AIDS/ HIV is a global problem and efforts to find a lasting cure is a priority, why are the available drugs expensive? Also, why does Africa seem to be left out in the sense of making the drugs so expensive that very few can afford them? Its been said that the disease is destroying Africa. Does the world care or is it another Kosovo-Rwanda story?
Bill Amira, Kenya

There is a clear correlation between the Sub-Saharan AIDS map and tourism. Inference beyond reasonable doubt, leads us to conclude that infected Western tourists are culprits in the spread of the AIDS dilemma. A visit to those Southern African countries will expose your eyes to their high inter-racial sex markets - even involving underage girls. These tourists abuse the poor natives with the exchange of sex, for a token of their higher valued currencies. What can Africa do? I guess it is too late in the day. However, West Africa should take heed and ban child prostitution, both internal and international. That will be a step in the right direction. Poverty alleviation is the key to the puzzle.
Ike, Nigeria


In order to seriously deal with the AIDS epidemic in Africa, a simultaneous attack against poverty will be necessary

Ezekiel Pajibo, Liberian refugee resident in USA
In order to seriously deal with the AIDS epidemic in Africa, a simultaneous attack against poverty will be necessary. Unless African leaders and the world community attack the issue of endemic and entrenched poverty, not much will be achieved on the AIDS front. As one insightful journalist once suggested: "if the cure to AIDS was a clean drinking glass of water, Africa cannot afford it".
Ezekiel Pajibo, Liberian refugee resident in USA

Africa needs to educate its population about AIDS but it needs the resources to do so. However, so much of this potentially great continent is under the tyranny of corrupt and cruel regimes that are only interested in stealing from the people they supposedly serve. Increased literacy is the most effective weapon against disease as information can then be supplied to large numbers of people relatively cheaply. Unless this happens the future looks bleak. Pharmaceutical companies may come up with a solution but they are not renowned for their altruism.
Henbane, UK

The poor are treated with less respect, given less choice of service providers and offered lower-quality amenities. In trying to buy health from their own pockets, they pay and become poorer.
Abdinasir Mohamed, Somalia

Without addressing behaviour, the response to prevention strategies will always be limited. We'll create some results here and there, but unless there is a fundamental change in behaviour, there will be no drastic change in the evolution of the epidemic.
Alex, Switzerland

Sooner or later Africa will declare victory over Aids, the virus killer. You only have to wait and see. Stop begging the West for goodness sake!
Tajudeen Isiaka, Nigeria


It is time the major drug companies were compelled to run comprehensive programmes that treat all volunteers with equality regardless of the colour of their skin

John Nevitt, UK
I think education and protection against the virus in the first place is beginning to reverse the trend in Africa but a vaccine is badly needed. Africans are to be asked to volunteer for testing a potential vaccine but not for the two most common strains of HIV in Africa. The testing programme will concentrate on the strain most prevalent in the West. Unlike European and American volunteers who are guaranteed the best drugs available should they become infected as a result of the vaccine trials, Africans will be expected to take their chances. It is time the major drug companies were compelled to run comprehensive programmes that treat all volunteers with equality regardless of the colour of their skin.
John Nevitt, UK


People who were known to have Aids became outcasts

Samuel, USA
Ten years ago I had a chance to talk to young prostitutes in Addis Ababa on a programme to spread awareness about the disease, amongst other things. Most knew at least, that AIDS kills and they knew about condoms. However, none of the 1500 who participated personally knew anybody who had died of Aids. Therefore, almost all chose not to use condoms rather than lose customers. Health workers and the media started the awareness campaign very late in the day after millions have been infected and created panic rather than awareness. The fact that people can live with Aids was deliberately hidden from the public. People who were known to have Aids became outcasts. The infected ones were told they would die within a few years by the media. A combination of rampant, poverty-driven prostitution and a society with a chunk of the population expecting to die within a few years, has created a culture of living for the day and a silent rampage of infecting others or avoiding tests despite personal knowledge of being at risk.
Samuel, USA


Africa does not need leaders like President Thabo Mbeki to mingle politics with sciencee

Pius M Katunzi, Uganda
Africa does not need leaders like President Thabo Mbeki to mingle politics with science. Africa's only hope is to have focused leadership and policy on Aids. Uganda and Senegal have made positive steps by being open. Advanced countries also need not handle the Aids epidemic with a racial lens. We all live in a global village; we need to help each. We need to abandon retrogressive cultures and traditions like wife inheritance.
Pius M Katunzi, Uganda

In underdeveloped countries the major reason of ANY failure against disease is the lack of literacy/education. I think SA government should make society more aware, because if we want to win the war against such diseases we must take the help of entire society.
Prasad M Kothare, India


In dealing with Aids, we need to understand the manner in which black Africans view death

Felix Epie, USA
In dealing with AIDS, we need to understand the manner in which black Africans view death. For most Bantu and related peoples (and that is almost all sub-saharan Africa) there are two types of death: normal death (usually attributed to witchcraft) in which the dead person is given an elaborate funeral that will turn the person into a venerated ancestor, and "bad death" which is believed to defile the family of the victim.
There is no elaborate and honourable funeral for such a person and s/he will never become an ancestor to whom the living pray. In other words, that person is lost and forgotten forever.
Victims of Aids in Africa today die the second type of death, "bad death". It is understandable, therefore, why most Africans are unwilling to admit that a family member is dying from Aids. The way to help this situation is for leaders to convince themselves that Aids is an infection, like, say malaria, and to talk about it more openly.
Felix Epie, USA

Personally I feel that Africans are completely unaware of the outside forces that are plotting their demise and eventual death. It is no coincidence that this continent is plagued with wars, famine, and disease while the western powers look on with a smile.
Make no mistake, no one wants to see Africa rise, especially the US and their brothers the EU. The AIDS epidemic that is gripping the region is tantamount to germ warfare imposed upon the Native Americans (Polio infected blankets) many, many years ago. The UN, IMF, and their cohorts the World Bank have all demonstrated that they do not want to see any good come out of Africa, they are starting all the wars and diseases.
Ishaaq Chukwu, UK now in the US

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