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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

US/Africa: When Mr. President Came Shopping

Africa Policy E-Journal
July 19, 2003 (030719)

US/Africa: When Mr. President Came Shopping
(Reposted from sources cited below)

With President Bush back from his whirlwind Africa trip, the $15 billion he repeatedly took credit for is still as hard to find as the elusive weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. His pledge in the State of the Union message came to 36 words, more than twice the 16 about African uranium now under such intense scrutiny: "I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean."

In fact, the President has asked Congress for less than $2 billion to be spent beginning next year for all AIDS programs worldwide, with a token $200 million for the cash-starved Global Fund to Fight AIDS. And he has proposed the creation of a cumbersome new bureaucracy headed by a drug-company executive before any new money can be spent. Meanwhile, existing programs to save lives are starved for resources. The evidence for misleading hype in the President's AIDS promises is in plain sight, and requires no new intelligence reports. As yet there is no widespread call for a commission of inquiry into who lied. But high expectations aroused by repetition of the $15 billion mantra are more than matched by deep skepticism as to whether the President will deliver on his promise "to prevent 7 million new AIDS infections and treat at least 2 million people with life-extending drugs" within the foreseeable future.

This posting contains three statements from African AIDS activists released during and after the President's visit, beginning with a account by one of the HIV-positive women who was part of President Bush's photo-opportunity in Abuja, Nigeria, and continuing with statements from Zimbabwean and Ugandan activists. All originally appeared in the Nigeria-AID eForum, which is available at

Another posting today contains updates on the current funding status of the Global Fund and of the President's bilateral plan.

+++++++++++++++++end summary/introduction+++++++++++++++++++++++

Rolake Nwagwu
Treatment Action Movement (TAM) Nigeria

July 16, 2003 When Mr. President Came Shopping

Posting on the Nigeria-AIDS eForum, a project of Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) Nigeria. For more information see:
View message archives at Contact the eForum moderator at:

A journalist asked me what it felt like to shake the hands of the most powerful man in the world, the President of the United States of America, President George Walker Bush.

Man, I have refused to take a bath since Saturday! God forbid that I wash these hands before I get to my bank to withdraw a million naira. Then, I must take these hands of mine to the American embassy on Walter Carrington Crescent to get that almighty American visa, and when I'm asked that question that makes those of us living with HIV
uncomfortable, the question that says: Do you have an infectious disease of public health significance? I will simply stretch out my right hand and say I just got a presidential handshake from your president .

Most importantly, I must run on Tuesday morning to the HIV clinic to see my doctor. I can't afford meds because four years ago I was put on a drug trial for six months with no counseling. I couldn't even finish the trial because I had no money to pay, and I was not totally compliant. Now, I need to access drugs but I don t qualify for the first line regimen, as I'm not drug naive. I must have at least N37.000 monthly ($300) if I m to start ARV therapy. That being the case, I'll take the hands he shook and the $15 billion promissory note he gave to the doctor and all my drug needs shall be met - Amen!

The journey to this handshake was hilariously maddening. We were told the issue to be put on the front burner is PMTCT. [prevention of mother-to-child-transmission]. The last time I checked, when any group or body claimed to have a PMTCT program, it usually meant VCT [voluntary counselling and testing] + ARV + infant formula milk. With my dear people, it could mean VCT + referral to the-yet-to-start Nigerian Government Nevirapine + 6 months exclusive breast-feeding! This PMTCT initiative needs to be applauded and for that we dressed up, sang and shook hands with Mr. President.

When the opportunity came to table our issues, it was denied us because according to the organizers, there was no time and only five people could talk to him, one of whom was a representative of positive women. The only thing she's expected to do is give her testimonial and get the heck off. She had just two minutes and she had to read a testimonial rather than place our issues on the table.

What George Bush wants to listen to is your testimonial. He already knows the issue and has heard your voice, which is why he is making this visit. President Bush is not comfortable with speeches and talks. That sounds to me like if all I have is two minutes, he'll rather hear the stigma and pains I have to endure than the issues I expect his visit to address.

Now, Bush has come and gone and I' m left here in Nigeria with USAID. PMTCT is the reason for which we went to Abuja and comprehensive PMTCT program is what we expect. Since Mr. President knows what my issues are and came to Nigeria to address them, I want to see a model USAID PMTCT site that commits to VCT, ARV and infant milk. Anything short of that is a farce and totally unacceptable. The fall out of the Bush visit shouldn't just be the sale of Nigerian gas and growing genetically processed and patented crops like was done in India, otherwise, we'll be tempted to think the President just came a-shopping.

You might ask why the American President should be the one to talk to about my concerns and not my own government. Sadly, there was no Nigerian government delegate who met us with President Bush, but my thinking is that if America says she is committed to fighting AIDS in Africa, then the right things should be done at the right time in the right way. Don't claim to commit to PMTCT if you won't make ARVs available. Don't claim to support Africans using generic drugs if you go on to try enforcing the same laws that will make getting generic drugs almost impossible.

Don't claim to be against stigma and discrimination of PLWHA if your staff members still screen their domestic workers for HIV and visa lottery winners are compelled to take HIV tests without their informed knowledge or consent, without voluntary and confidential counseling. When their HIV test results gets to the US embassy first. When they do not get to see the results of tests they paid a fortune for in highbrow hospitals. I wanted to table our issues before the American President because I believe that you must say what you mean and mean what you say.

So, when Bush came shopping in Africa, he talked about America's commitment to fight HIV and AIDS in Africa. He's gone round five beautiful African countries, made promises, ate dinners, watched dances and posed for photographs. The only group that had audience with him was positive women. Neither the Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) nor the Civil Society Consultative Group on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (CISSGHAN) got an audience. I was ready to take the next flight home when the entire charade was fast turning into a farce, but I figured this was the only opportunity to say my piece, so I dressed up, fell in line, said my piece and came back home.

Thanks President Bush for standing there, listening to us, hearing our voices, talking to us and assuring us that all our concerns will be met and addressed. We look forward to your fulfilling the very many promises you made to us.

Thanks most especially to the 15 most beautiful women in Nigeria and dear Sisi who agreed that we all should individually one-on-one tell President Bush what our concerns are, namely:

  1. The lack of funding for the Global Fund
  2. Lack of infant milk for our babies
  3. Lack of ARVs for our children and us
  4. Lack of drugs to treat opportunistic infections
  5. Efforts to prevent us from infecting our babies but none to stop these same babies from becoming orphans
  6. Making true the commitment of $15 billion promised to Africa
  7. Committing to putting pressure on the almighty pharmaceutical companies of the west to bring down the prices of drugs and
  8. Stopping the stigma and discrimination that denies us access to unrestricted travel

I'm however not sorry that I became the spirit of distraction who wouldn't allow things run as the powers that be wanted it to, neither am I sorry that I refused to sing and dance for President George Bush.

I almost forgot to add the fact that my beautiful face was seen all over the world on CNN, all over Nigeria on NTA and my flat-mate in South Africa even saw me on SABC! You see comrades from across Africa and all over the world who wrote protest letters, called press conferences and even went on protest marches never got seen nor mentioned on CNN, but we know that they got seen and heard where it matters most: in history, in our hearts and in the world security monitoring devices.

I am looking forward to the recorded hand shake and presidential photographs putting drugs in my body, preventing me from passing this dreaded virus on to my baby and putting the much needed infant milk on my table seeing as I cant breast feed!



9 July 2003 [posted 11 July on Nigeria-AIDS eForum]

Tapiwanashe Kujinga (Spokesperson)
Zimbabwe Activists on HIV & AIDS
Phone: 263 20 67874; Cell: 263 11 413 487

Zimbabwe Activists on HIV & AIDS is an activist organisation formed in January 2003, and its vision is the attainment of universal HIV/AIDS treatment in Zimbabwe. The formation of ZAHA was in response to the grim realities of the dire situation in Zimbabwe where the pandemic has now reached disaster proportions, and is now the leading cause of death in the country.

Whilst we applaud President Bush's visit to this part of the world, his stance and commitment to HIV/AIDS treatment, as well as his US$15 billion financial package to help with treatment in Africa and the Caribbean, we are also painfully aware that Zimbabwe is not listed as a recipient of the President's philanthropy. We are in no doubt of the fact that the exclusion of this country is linked to the relentless and persistent human rights abuses in this country, and the explicit demands by Washington that democracy and good governance be restored.

It is apparent that the President's mission to South Africa has a heavy bias on engaging President Thabo Mbeki to commit himself to Washington's agenda vis-a-vis Zimbabwe's political situation, but apparently nothing on helping Zimbabwe combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

We want President Bush to know that, as much as we have a political problem, we have a bigger HIV/AIDS problem in Zimbabwe. We have an infection rate of 34% of the adult population; we have a death rate of at least 500 deaths per day from AIDS-related illnesses, and our life expectancy is now perilously low at less than 40 years. An estimated 2,3 million people are infected, including about 240 000 orphans, and about 600 000 of these are in need of antiretroviral therapy. Only 1% of these are on the therapy. For the rest, the cost of the therapy is simply beyond their reach and is therefore not an option.

We also want President Bush to know that, as much as Zimbabweans have had to endure the current economic and political challenges, people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS have borne the brunt of this terrible situation. The current drought has worsened their plight and robbed them of the nutrition that they desperately need to boost their immune systems. The political situation, which the President is most concerned about, has severely affected them as they are in no way to defend them in this violent atmosphere. The Zimbabwean Government, currently facing severe economic challenges, has not taken concrete steps to enable PWA's to access treatment, and this situation is likely to persist for as long as the necessary resources are outside of its reach. If no immediate intervention programs are launched to target the 99% who are not on antiretroviral therapy, the death rate will certainly reach genocide proportions.

Finally, we want President Bush to know that the people infected by HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe are not the authors of the status quo, and ought not to be excluded from any treatment initiatives meant to alleviate the plight of other PWA's in Africa and the Caribbean merely because of Government-to-Government hostilities. Whilst he has made his position on our President clear, he certainly has no beef with the hundreds of thousands who are suffering and who urgently need help. There is no reason why they should not be included in the US$15 billion facility, which will enable them to access treatment and restore their lives, their dignity and their hopes.

It must be noted that other non-governmental organisations have taken steps to introduce HIV/AIDS treatment, including antiretroviral therapy, in Zimbabwe, despite the adverse conditions. SAfAIDS has launched a crusade aimed at ARV awareness in Zimbabwe, and several mission hospitals like Luisa Guidotti in Mutoko have started dispensing the therapy. Private companies like De Beers and Delta Corporation are giving the drugs to their employees. Family Aids Caring Trust, the largest Aids Service Organisation in Zimbabwe, has launched an access to treatment project called LIFE Project, which will also be dispensing ARV drugs in and around Mutare. However, given the absence of substantial funding and long-term sustainability, these projects are likely to benefit a few out of the hundreds of thousands in need.

We trust that the President will put Zimbabwe on his map on HIV/AIDS intervention, and make a difference in the lives of countless infected and affected Zimbabweans.


Milly Katana
Lobbying and Advocacy Officer (HAG)
Health Rights Action Group, Uganda

[posted on Nigeria-AIDS eForum]

Today, July 11, 2003 President Bush, leader of the United States of America the wealthiest nation in the world, steps foot at Entebbe International Airport. On this day when President Bush arrives, 18,000 people are estimated to die from AIDS in Africa alone.

In African tradition an important visitor is welcomed with drums, dancing and singing. However President Bush, arrival will be received with mothers wailing for the loss of their children: adults and infants to AIDS and toddlers to Malaria.

Hence, President Bush's visit is the only opportunity through which USA has to deliver on the AIDS Emergency Plan which is now over 6 months old and no single life is known to have been saved by it.

We call upon President Museveni to take his counterpart to some graveyards of children who have died of AIDS. These have died because we are too poor to give them life saving drugs, which cost less than $1 per day. No cover up this time. President Bush has come to see for himself the disaster a preventable terror has caused to Uganda, a country with the largest number of AIDS orphans in the whole world.

We also request President Museveni to use this opportunity to indeed lead the way by advising President Bush that the struggle against AIDS is a concerted, one which calls for all tools to be drawn at the same time, not only abstinence as it portrayed as the cause of the so called Uganda's success story.

With his tears rolling, President Bush should leave Africa with the $3 billion cheque for 2004 to fight AIDS signed, with an immediate plan to put more money into the Kofi Annan Global Fund. The Fund now lacks only $600 million to meet the financing obligation of an estimated 100 programs from about 60 countries from all over the world to respond to AIDS, TB and malaria.. Nothing is beyond the authority of President Bush in the world.

The President by a phone call can ask Congress for even a billion dollars for the Global Fund in emergency funding. The Global Fund has proved itself to be the most economical and demand driven process of getting hope to the lives of individuals and families who have been rendered helpless by diseases.

Using the WHO estimates, 3 million of the 42 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the world need treatment in the next three years. In Uganda, with an estimated 1.5m people living with HIV/AIDS, approximately 105,000 Ugandans living with HIV/AIDS will need treatment in the next 3-4 years.

Using the offer of CIPLA Company of an annual cost of $600 for treating one person, President Museveni needs $63 million per year to treat his nationals living with HIV/AIDS and save them from preventable deaths. Therefore, if President Museveni got a cheque, or a firm promissory note of $315 million, he would be able to disable the "mustard seed" that is just ready to grow into another "beautiful green" AIDS epidemic in a country that is celebrated for having conquered AIDS.

This is not a visit of looking good, but displaying the evil disease has caused to Uganda and Africa in general. It is a visit of acting good and bringing smiles to the cheeks of youngsters whose lives will be spared from AIDS through sustainable prevention and educational efforts. It is visit of bringing hope to the aging who will look forward to their children to put them to rest not vice versa. To frontline workers, it is a visit for transforming the AIDS response in Africa.

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Date distributed (ymd): 030719
Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +US policy focus+ +health+

The Africa Action E-Journal is a free information service provided by Africa Action, including both original commentary and reposted documents. Africa Action provides this information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

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