A U-S government program to treat AIDS in foreign countries reached a milestone this past Memorial Day weekend and it has connections to the disease in this country.
Michael Gerson worked in the Bush administration when PEPFAR was created 10 years ago. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief was meant to turn around the dealy epidemic in other countries.
“There were really whole countries in Africa that were living in the shadow of death,” Gerson recalls. “In a Country like Zambia at one point there were two teachers dying for every one that was graduating from teaching school”
Gerson, who now is a Washington Post Columnist and a fellow at the ONE campaign for global disease, witnessed rapid improvement
“It’s just extraordinary that you have 7 million people in sub-Saharan Africa living with aids instead of dying of AIDS. I remember visiting in Ethiopia an orphanage where all the children were HIV positive and every single one of them died. And the seeing the AIDS drugs start to arrive, and none of the children at that orphanage were dying”
Early treatment and preventing mother to child transmission, tremendously curbed new infections, leading Gerson to say there could be an AIDS-free generation.
Syracuse AIDS Community Resources Director Michael Crinnin is not quite that optimistic.
“There are so many reasons that people make the choices they make that put at risk for so many diseases including HIV that we don’t want to focus on.”
Crinnin and Gerson agree the U-S has trouble talking about sex and hasn’t solved the poverty issues that exacerbate AIDS. They say more testing could stop people who don’t even know that have the AIDS virus from spreading it.