The AIDS-TB killer monster

March 24th, is world TB Day. But this year’s commemoration was tainted by the bad news about the drug resistance strains of TB whose incidence seems to be on the rise. IRIN News (an excellenet news source on matters third world) is reporting that the incidence of the drug resistance varieties of TB are on the rise. The WHO, according to the IRIN report, blames this on “non-existent labs, lack of inspection control and diagnostics, and poor treatment adherence.” African countries are the worst affected (surprise??). Healthcare expenditure still remains low in most of these countries and the very high incidence of HIV/AIDS on the Continent only serves to complicate matters. TB fatality rate (for those with drug resistance strains) is as high as 90% for people with HIV/AIDS.

Disease treatment/control is still last-century in most of Africa. For most Africans, the choice is sometimes between putting a meal on the table or getting treatment. The other contributing factor to the many epidemics that continue to rock the continent is ignorance. Indeed drug resistant varieties of TB are oftentimes a result of people not taking their daily doses as required.

Matters are not all gloomy though. Former US president Bush’s gift of PEPFAR continues to save lives in Africa and other places. But money from foreigners is not the answer but mere band aid. The strong correlation between ignorance and poverty and disease burden suggests that education and economic growth could go a long way in terms of disease control on the Continent.I only wish that African governments took disease control, education and the economic well-being of their populations more seriously.

weekly news round up

This week saw a lot take place on the continent.

In Kenya, negotiations to restore order and legitimacy in the government and possibly grant the opposition a power sharing arrangement are in an advanced stage. The former UN boss Kofi Annan, who is chairing the talks, is scheduled to announce to the Kenyan public agreements made thus far tomorrow (Friday).  Kenyans desperately need a political solution to the crisis that has hit the formerly peaceful nation since last year’s election.

Moving North West to Chad, the president Idriss Deby has declared a state of emergency after last week’s coup attempt. Deby’s government was almost toppled by a bunch of rag-tag rebels who are believed to be in cahoots with the government of Sudan. Lucky for Deby, the French sent in their airforce which enabled the government repel the rebels who were already in the capital and ready to take control of the presidential palace. The curfew restricts movement at night and especially the movement of vehicles. The defeat of the rebels last week was surely a mere postponement of their return since the government of Chad remains weak and only concentrated in Djamena.

Down South, former Zimbabwean finance minister, Simba Makoni, announced that he was going to challenge Robert Mugabe 82, in the March elections. Makoni’s announcement was swiftly followed by his expulsion from ZANU-PF and a rejection from the main opposition chief, Morgan Tsvangirae. Zimbabwe’s opposition remains sectarian and Mugabe loves this because it does guarantee him a win in March. Makes you wonder whether these people really want Rob’s government out.

In the Comoros islands, the government announced that it was planning to carry out an invasion of the renegade island of Anjouan in an attempt to reunite the Indian ocean archipelago. Comoros consists of three islands Anjouan, Grand Comore and Moheli each with its own autonomous government. Anjouan, however, led by one Mr. Mohammed Bacar, has broken from the fold since it held controversial elections in June of last year. Majority of the residents of Anjouan seem to be in favor of the invasion by the Union government based in Moroni, the capital. It’s now a wait ands see as the government continues to amass troops on the island of Moheli. Watch this space. 

Looking ahead, President George Bush of the US is due to visit Africa. The president’s itinerary will include stops in Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, Benin and Liberia. The president’s visit will mainly serve to highlight the successes of his efforts to stop the spread of aids on the continent and to distribute ARVs to those already infected. Accompanying him will be first lady Laura Bush and the “foreign affairs minister” Condi Rice.

bush visit to africa

President George Bush will pay his final official visit to the continent this coming week. According to the White House website the president and his wife will visit Africa between Feb 15 and 21 to see firsthand the impact of America’s aid towards prevention and containment of HIV/AIDS and other tropical diseases.

President Bush’s itinerary will include stops in Tanzania, Benin, Ghana, Liberia and Rwanda. Although Bush is wildly unpopular at home and in many other parts of the world, many Africans still view the president in a good light because of the visible impact that his aid policies have had on the continent’s struggle with AIDS. Mr. Bush launched the $500m aids fund for Africa in 2002 in an attempt to help many of the African countries struggling with high infection rates and lack of ARVs. Since then many of the countries that received the aid have managed to reduce the spread of AIDS and deaths due to the virus through the provision of affordable ARVs.

AIDS remains one of Africa’s biggest challenges. The continent has the world’s highest average infection rates and is faced with a crisis as millions of children continue to be orphaned by the scourge. A few countries like Uganda have managed to stem the spread of the virus while others have chosen to treat it as less of a threat. Yet others have even gone comical – South Africa and the Gambia come to mind. In South Africa, Mbeki insists that HIV does not cause AIDs and his health minister thinks that herbs would cure the illness. The President of Gambia on the other hand insists that he can cure the disease, but only on Thursdays.The church in Africa in its reluctance to endorse the use of condoms among the faithful is also playing a role in the spread of the disease.

I hope that Bush’s visit will be a wake up call to African health officials. The continent’s health services are in dire need of modernization since most of them lack equipment and drugs and cannot deal with even the simplest of illnesses.