Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Kristof’s “The Deep Roots of AIDS”

Nicholas Kristof searches for the roots of HIV [Op-Ed, “The Deep Roots of AIDS”, September 19] and finds them in poverty and gender inequality. He tells the story of a man in Cameroon who falls ill and eventually dies of AIDS. The family, unable to gather the funds to pay for consistent treatment, is now destitute: the man’s wife is alone and disenfranchised, his daughters have dropped out of school and have few choices ahead of them.

Yet Kristof’s solution isn’t to address the root causes he identifies—poverty and gender inequality—but to promote routine HIV testing. Expanding testing programs alone will not ensure antiretroviral treatment for the lower-class. It will not end violence against women, which helps fuel the epidemic, nor will it diminish the lure of sugar-daddies to pay school fees or put food on the table.

In preaching abstinence until marriage and fidelity, the U.S. program on AIDS has turned a blind eye to these issues. We do need a more aggressive approach to the global AIDS crisis, but it must be built around protecting human rights, empowering women and girls, and expanding access to antiretroviral drugs. Only then will people seek HIV testing - and be able to do something about the result.

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