mbeki’s legacy

Partial results of Thabo Mbeki’s beetroot response to the South African AIDS epidemic are out. Life expectancy in South Africa declined between 1990-2007 (from 62 to 50). It is expected to decline even further over the next few years. Read more about this here.

It is worth noting that the new South African administration took an about-turn from Mbeki’s bizarre AIDS policy, as was articulated by his health minister. The South African Ministry of Health has on its website an HIV and AIDS and STI strategic plan designed to tackle the HIV problem. Over 5 million South Africans, out of a total population of 49.3 million, are infected.

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.