FIVE YEARS AGO, in Jos, Nigeria, a city on the country’s central plateau, Dr. John Idoko regularly made rounds in a hospital packed with people dying from AIDS because they couldn’t pay for the antiretroviral drugs necessary to keep them alive. Three years ago, as the price of the drugs plummeted, the Nigerian doctor was able to deliver the life-extending medication to 700 patients-until his government’s supply ran out for several months.
Today, the change for the better is astonishing: Idoko now treats nearly 6,000 HIV-positive patients. He has expanded his clinic three times in five years, and his waiting room once again is too crowded. “Now, we are eyeing an abandoned building nearby,” he said last week, chuckling.
The major reason for Idoko’s success is the Bush administration’s AIDS program, which in the last three years has sent billions of dollars to Africa and helped save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
When Bush mentioned this in the State of the Union speech in 2003, I thought it was a biggie. Overshadowed, to be sure, by the impending invasion of Iraq, but a biggie nonetheless. A number of times in conversation I’ve mentioned the proposal and wondered why nothing ever became of it.
This is honestly the very first peep I’ve heard from anyone anywhere about a single penny being spent on this project.
In fact, the only think I’ve heard in the past couple of years was a comment on a blog (I think) about how Bush had lied when he said he wanted to spend money on AIDS relief for Africa.
Let me repeat: This is the very first time I’ve heard any news from any source about any money being spent anywhere in Africa for AIDS relief.
A lot of the problem seems to be that a lot of the money is headed for faith-based groups and abstinence education programs. And other groups seem to be a bit miffed that they aren’t getting the money. Instead of simply writing checks to these groups or local leaders, the program is being run by the folks with the funding.
No wonder the media doesn’t want to cover it. Not only is it good news, it’s news that makes Bush look good. And religious groups deserve some of the limelight, too. Which means you won’t hear a thing about it.