Two-thirds of all people with HIV-AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa. So the disease is, not quite but almost, an African problem. American taxpayers, through their vessel, the lame duck president George Bush, this week showed enormous generosity in extending for another five years a program called PEPFAR that essentially makes possible anti-retroviral treatment for people with full-blown AIDS. The treatment works in most cases, though as the Financial Times reported yesterday, a growing number of people — perhaps as many as 25% — have resistant strains of HIV/AIDs.
The problem of drug resistance is neither new nor insurmountable. At this week’s international conference on the disease in Mexico City, many words will be spilled on how to limit the growth of resistant strains — and extend the effectiveness of front-line drugs. These are technical issues of course. The grand policy has been set: U.S. taxpayers, and their elected representatives, have a long-term stake in African health-care policies. Rather sadly, an American who needs AIDs treatment may not receive such generosity from taxpayers; for the uninsured and uncovered in the U.S., the humane deal offered ailing and anonymous Africans is rarely available.