So much foreign-aid money is being spent on costly AIDS treatment in Africa, compared to other diseases, that “H.I.V.-infected children are offered exemplary treatment, while children suffering from much simpler-to-treat diseases are left untreated, sometimes to die.” Political correctness is at the root of this problem: AIDS afflicts people in wealthy countries like the U.S. and Europe (especially those people who have unprotected anal sex or share needles), but the other diseases that kill millions of people in Africa don’t (indeed, many diseases that kill or cripple people in the Third World, like polio, no longer even exist in the United States). But people who point out the obvious bias in favor of AIDS get criticized by people like Michael Gerson as “mean-spirited,” even though the flood of AIDS money, much of it wasted, has had resulted in a brain drain from primary care that harms some African health-care systems.
In today’s Washington Post, the Chair of Uganda’s National AIDS Prevention Committee makes another important point: cheap and effective AIDS prevention is being shafted in favor of costly treatments for people who already have AIDS. Rev. Sam Ruteikara notes that “to prolong one AIDS patient’s life with antiretroviral treatment for one year costs more than $1,000. In 2007, 1.6 million people in sub-Saharan Africa died from AIDS — and 1.7 million became infected with HIV. In Uganda, we have a proverb: ‘You cannot continue mopping the floor while the broken tap is still running.’ Every $1 spent on treatment is $1 unspent on effective prevention.'”