Another disaster lurks in Africa

Famine in Somalia one thing, but HIV remains a huge problem

With the famine in Somalia a new threat to millions of lives, it might seem an unlikely time to call for increased spending on HIV/TB co-infection.

But the disaster in the Horn of Africa has been years in the making, in no small part due to global neglect. It’s the old thumbs twiddling while Rome burns. Much could have been done, but wasn’t, and now the world is responding after the fact, when countless lives have already been lost and aid much more difficult to provide.

As in Somalia, there is another long-term disaster stalking Africa that is the result of neglect. But unlike Somalia, it is absurdly simple to solve.

It is estimated that of the millions of individuals being treated for HIV infection (at a cost of hundreds of dollars a year per person), less than five per cent have been screened for TB, which is the primary killer of those living with HIV.

This despite the fact that screening is very simple – eight questions are asked, and if the results are positive the patient is given a medical test. Treatment is less than $20 per year.

It is estimated that two million HIV survivors will die from preventable TB in the next three years.

Somalia is an example of what happens when the world looks the other way, and given the violent politics of the region, easy or quick solutions to the crisis are not available.

Recently the federal government committed $50 million in assistance and promised to match dollar-for-dollar any donations made by Canadians. This is laudable, but at the same time, Canadian funding for HIV has decreased, and spending on TB has been stagnating for years.

We have a choice: we can bury the bodies after the fact, wasting millions of dollars in the process, or we can be proactive and easily save lives.

TB might be less dramatic than dust storms and packed refugee camps, but the results are the same.

Nathaniel Poole

Victoria

 

Is Pamela Martin’s job

of any value to taxpayers?

Re: Pamela Martin’s new job irks reader (Letters, July 22)

R. Boothman is right to be irked, if not incensed.

Pamela Martin has now been on the job as the premier’s director of outreach for about a month.

At her salary of $130,000 per year, this means taxpayers have already given her more than $10,800 ($70 per hour). Can the premier, with her new open government policy, please tell us what value we got for that money?

Roel Hurkens

Victoria

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