22 million Africans HIV-infected, illwith AIDS
while African leaders ignore disaster-in-waiting

"Too much of Africa will enter the 21st century watching the gains of the 20th evaporate," Callisto Madavo, the vice president of the World Bank African region has warned the world at an international conference in Lusaka, Zambia. In a realistic but chilling representation of the scourge and economic, social and human cost of AIDS in Africa, health and economic experts noted on Monday September 13, 1999 tthat the pandemic could wipe out all the gains of the past century.

"The impact that Aids is already having on sub-Saharan Africa is catastrophic, and the scenario will worsen unless global leaders work together to invest more - much more - prevention efforts and programs to address the multitude of social and economic problems that AIDS has brought," UNAIDS executive director Peter Piot argued. "The impact is all too comprehensible ... the protracted sickness, the fractured families, the weakening workforce, the relentless ritual of funerals, and the morgues that no longer even bother to close," Madavo added. Since 1984, AIDS reportedly has caused the deaths of 11 million Africans. The conferees said that almost 22.5 million people are infected with HIV or ill with Aids. Hence, Madavo underlined the fact that "the damage that Aids has done in the present is incalculable. Now it threatens millions of the future.... AIDS now poses the foremost threat to development in Africa."

Remarkably, like the proverbial individual whose house is on fire who chose to pursue rats instead of saving the house, none of nearly one dozen African heads of states and government awho were invited to attend the health conference showed up. More telling, host president President Frederick Chiluba sent Vice-President Christone Tembo to read his speech. Apparently, AIDS does not have the lure for the African leaders to junket and shop during other more wasteful excuses they find. It seems, essentially, another example where African leaders dangerously and irresponsibly misplace the continent's priorities.

Nwangwu, recipient of the Journalism Excellence Award, HABJ 1997, is the Founder & Publisher of USAfricaonline.com, The Black Business Journal, and NigeriaCentral.com

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