ON WORLD AIDS DAY ACTIVISTS CHEER SMALL STEPS FORWARD
Nov. 26 (GIN) – South Africa will mark World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 with a full palette of music – from the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra to the New Apostolic Church Cape Choir – at the Artscape Opera House in Western Cape. Hope Maimane of the Waterfront Theatre College will offer a dance recital.
While some statistics are improving, AIDS activists warn that belt-tightening in western countries may erase these hard-won gains.
“More HIV-positive people are living longer [in Kenya as a result of HIV treatment], so we are clearly moving in the right direction,” said Peter Cherutich, head of prevention at the National AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Program.
But with over 80 percent of Kenya’s HIV programs depending on foreign funds, progress is unsustainable.
“In the event they stop funding these programs,” said Cherutich, “they would draw back the gains that have so far been realized.”
According to the advocacy group ONE, 16 sub-Saharan countries have reached the “beginning of the end of AIDS” – a point when the number of new HIV infections is lower than the number of new patients receiving AIDS treatment in the same year.
Sadly, African governments have been shortchanging vital health programs even after pledging to set aside at least 15 percent of their annual budgets to healthcare by 2015. Only 6 countries – Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, Togo and Zambia – have met the target. Five other countries are spending at least 13 percent of their annual budgets on health, according to data compiled by the UN World Health Organization
A quarter of African Union member-states are now spending less on health than they were in 2001.
Paradoxically, one of Africa’s richest nations had one of the worst records for new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths. In Angola, new HIV cases were up 47% – from 19,000 in 2011 to 28,000 in 2012. AIDS-related deaths rose from 8,400 in 2001 to 13,000 in 2012. Drug treatment for adults and children was also very low. Less than one quarter of eligible children and less than half of adults had access to treatment in 2012 under 2010 guidelines from the World Health Organization.
After a meeting with UNAIDS chief Michel Sidibe, Angolan President Jose dos Santos pledged that no baby would be born with HIV by 2015 and that every Angolan living with HIV would have access to treatment. “Angola still has a long road ahead to overcome the HIV epidemic,” he admitted, “but we will do it together.”
PROHIBITED PICTURES OF ZUMA’S SWANKY HOME LAND ON PAGE ONE
Nov. 26 (GIN) – A defiant national press corps braved threats from South Africa’s security ministry to photograph the President’s rural homestead where recent upgrades of $205 million rand ($20 million U.S.) were raising eyebrows in the region.
Nkandla, the country estate of President Jacob Zuma, was reportedly refurbished with public monies in the name of security. Upgrades included a bunker, twin helicopter landing pads, an athletics track, basketball court, and artificial turf soccer field. The property is approximately a mile wide.
State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele warned the press against taking pictures: “It’s against the law. We are asking nicely that people no longer do it.”
But the warning failed to scare off the legions of reporting staff. Speaking for the South African National Editors’ Forum, Adriaan Basson disputed claims that Zuma’s house was now a “national key point” similar to the Parliament and the Union Buildings.
“These upgrades were done to President Zuma’s private residence and not state property,” countered Basson in an open letter. “We will continue to publish images of the Nkandla upgrades because to stop doing so will be a betrayal of our duty as watchdogs of democracy.”
The media dust-up could have consequences in the upcoming by-elections this week taking place in 22 wards in eight provinces. The ANC hopes to hold on to key districts that could be leaning toward the opposition Democratic Alliance or the Pan Africanist Congress, among others.
Issues of income inequality, now symbolized by Zuma’s lavish estate, are looming large for ordinary South Africans whose income is stuck at low numbers.
Meanwhile, local area newspapers placed the exploding brouhaha on page one. “Look Away – What ministers don’t want you to see” was The Star’s headline, while The Times defiantly stated: “So, arrest us”. The Cape Times displayed “The picture the state does not want you to see” and The Cape Argus ran a similar headline over a picture of Zuma’s homestead.
On social media, Facebook users updated their cover photos with an image of the Nkandla residence. Activist Zackie Achmat on Twitter wrote: “Break unjust laws. Share #Nkandla photo.” Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos tweeted “Is there a single person who still believes Nkandla upgrade is about security? Father Christmas is waiting for your letter.”
An investigation by the country’s anti-corruption watchdog on possible inflated costs is due to be released shortly.
FORMER FIRST LADY WARNS OF ‘SEEDS OF DEPENDENCY’ IN WESTERN EDUCATION
Nov. 26 (GIN) – In a speech that examined the growing role for women in a rising Africa, Ghana’s former first lady also called for a critical look at formal western education.
Mme. Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, wife of former president Jerry Rawlings, and head of the 31st December Women’s Movement, delivered her remarks last week at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, in Glendale, Arizona.
On the topic “Development, Politics and National Government – Impact on African Women,” she recalled her work “as an African woman who has spent her last 30 years working on behalf of our nation’s women and children at the grassroots.”
“Women are 51% of Africa’s 1 billion people and they make up the majority of its poor,” she noted. “Those living in isolated rural communities are not yet part of the good news story.
“Together with children, these women often suffer the most, especially in times of crisis and unrest. For the masses of women, Africa is Rising – but slowly and unevenly – and unfortunately many women are not rising with it.
Mme. Nana Konadu then highlighted efforts being made to ensure that education is inclusive, that teachers are gender sensitive and curricula relevant to girls’ aspirations because: “From our experience in Africa, we have been more aware than ever that education can be a tool for subjugation.
“Indeed our dilemma has been that formal western education, while containing crucial elements for keeping us in touch with rapid technological and economic developments, which control the shape of international relationships, also bears the seeds of disempowerment and dependency.
“As the continent becomes more prosperous and more attractive to the outside world, our challenge – and the challenge of our national governments – is to address continuing inequality so that all Africans, including those living in isolated rural communities, fragile states and poor urban areas, are able to benefit from economic prosperity.”
“It is up to us, the women of Africa, to share the responsibility for actions needed to end poverty—first in our homes, then in our communities and, ultimately, throughout our nations, one woman at a time.” w/pix of Mms. Nana Konadu