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AIDS and the broader development agenda

Recently, I posted on rising concerns that AIDS is drawing attention from other health care issues. Fortunately, there appears to be some recognition that addressing HIV/AIDS alone may not only be problematic for this reason, it may be counterproductive since many of the other health problems can make HIV treatment programs less effective. Moreover, if broader issues of poverty and inequality remain unaddressed, people with vulnerable immune systems may lack the resources for good nutrition, clean water, and other basic necessities that are necessary for minimally good health.

Fortunately, this message isn’t lost on policymakers. Mark Dybul, the Bush Administration’s Global AIDS Coordinator, in a recent teleconference before World AIDS days took pains to describe how the Bush Administration is seeking to “connect the dots” between AIDS and other development problems.

He spoke of the Bush Administration’s malaria initiative, the Millennium Challenge Account, debt relief, a partnership with the Gates Foundation on clean water, and a women’s justice initiative as part of the broader development agenda in which PEPFAR is embedded.

Given that those infected with the HIV virus are susceptible to opportunistic infections and with the recent finding that malaria and AIDS recursively make each illness worse, I’d like to hope that this is more than just talk.

While the Bush Administration has delivered its commitment on HIV/AIDS, financing for other diseases and health infrastructure is lacking, and that’s true for all donors. Moreover, the Millennium Challenge Account hasn’t yet lived up to expectations, and progress in the trade arena, where protectionism in agriculture discriminates against developing country products, has stalled.

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