by John Carr
|Mass transit in southern Africa is very popular. Pick
up trucks may hold up to 20 people in the bed, buses
are jammed full, and daily hitchhiking is very common.
While any nation would benefit from the availability of free medication for any illness, it is a financial burden for the government and donors to undertake.
First, the program is working in Botswana. The spirits are high and the economy is not slowing down. The workforce is remaining strong compared to Botswana's neighbors. When I interviewed a supervisor for a medium-sized business in South Africa, she told me she lost about two employees per month to HIV/AIDS and the absenteeism is high.
Second, the program must be administered with caution. Numerous programs have begun with good intentions across Africa, but due to greed and misuse of money, programs often fail.
Third, the program may suggest HIV/AIDS is not as serious as before since treatment is available. This must be avoided. The best way to stop HIV/AIDS is to prevent it. Education must continue to be a crucial part of all programs.
This program is working in Botswana, but cultures and governments vary across Africa. Funding will remain a large issue. Botswana has funding from Merck and the Gates' Foundation. These institutions cannot be expected to provide the same assistance to every country.
Unfortunately, not all governments want to address the HIV/AIDS problem. Skepticism and denial has plagued many governmental leaders, thus, leading to countless deaths. In South Africa, as recent as a few years ago, the president denied the existence of the virus. He claimed it was a hoax. Another idea emerge that the virus was created by the United States to kill Africans. Without strong governmental support an antiretroviral drug program cannot work successfully.
Finally, the program requires support of the people. Ultimately the success of the program depends on whether people will protect themselves against HIV/AIDS. No country, even Botswana, can provide free medication of millions of people forever.
Should others follow suite? This can only be answered on a case-by-case basis considering funding, public and governmental support.