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Written Testimony Submitted By

Sandra Thurman
Director, Office of National AIDS Policy

To The

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Subcommittee on African Affairs

February 24, 2000

Mr. Chairman and other members of this Subcommittee and Full Committee, I am delighted to be with you today to talk about the global AIDS pandemic - with a special focus on AIDS in Africa. Your interest in addressing this crisis is very much appreciated - and desperately needed.

We have heard your colleagues and our Surgeon General lay out a vivid picture of the scope of this tragedy - particularly as it relates to the public health crisis. I would like to use my time with you to talk about its impact on the stability of families, communities and nations. I would like to share with you some of my experiences with the faces behind these shocking facts. And I would like to outline for you some key components of our enhanced Administration response to this global pandemic.

By any and every measure - AIDS is a plague of Biblical proportion. And it is claiming more lives in Africa than in all of the wars waging on the continent combined. But unlike other wars - it is women and children that are increasingly caught in the crossfire of this relentless epidemic.

In Africa, an entire generation of children is in jeopardy. Already, in several sub-Saharan African countries, between one-fifth and one-third of all children have already been orphaned by AIDS. And the worst is yet to come. Within the next decade, more than 40 million children in Africa will have lost one or both parents to AIDS. 40 million. That is about the same number as all children in the United States living east of the Mississippi River. Or taken another way, it is almost the same number as all children in public school in this country. Left unchecked, this tragedy will continue to escalate for at least another 30 years.

In just a few short years, AIDS has wiped out decades of hard work and steady progress in improving the lives and health of families throughout the developing world - infant mortality is doubling, child mortality is tripling, and life expectancy is plummeting by twenty years or more.

AIDS is not just a health issue; it is an economic issue, a fundamental development issue and a security and stability issue.

AIDS is having a dramatic effect on productivity, trade and investment - striking down workers in their prime, driving up the cost of doing business, and driving down GNP. Professionals have been hit particularly hard in sub-Saharan Africa, including civil servants, engineers, teachers, miners, and military personnel. In Malawi and Zambia, more than 30% of teachers are HIV positive. Some mining firms in South Africa are reporting that nearly half of their workers are already infected. And many businesses are hiring at least two workers for every one skilled job, assuming that one will die from AIDS.

According to the Economist magazine, recent studies have found that AIDS is seriously eroding the economies of many of our partner nations. In Namibia, AIDS cost the country almost 8% of its GNP in 1996. By 2005, Kenya's GNP will be over 14% smaller than it would have been without AIDS.

Similarly, in Tanzania, The World Bank has predicted that its GNP will be 15% to 25% lower as a result of AIDS. The South African government has estimated that this epidemic costs the country 1% of its GNP each year, a situation that will only worsen without strong intervention.

AIDS is also effecting stability in the region. As you all know, the UN Security Council recently held a daylong meeting on HIV/AIDS. This historic event highlighted the growing awareness that AIDS is a security threat that requires a global mobilization. This reality was also addressed in a report recently released by the National Intelligence Council. The Report draws several very disturbing conclusions including the following:

  • The epidemic is far worse than predicted.
  • Development of an effective global surveillance and response system is at least a decade or more away.
  • The economic costs of infectious diseases - especially HIV/AIDS - are already significant and could reduce GDP by as much as 20% or more by 2010 in some sub-Saharan countries.
  • Some of the hardest hit countries in sub-Saharan Africa - and possibly later in South and South-East Asia - will face a demographic upheaval as HIV/AIDS and associated diseases reduce human life expectancy by as much as 30 years and kill as many as a quarter of their populations over a decade or less, producing a huge orphan cohort.
  • Nearly 42 million children in 27 countries will lose one or both parents to AIDS by 2010; 19 of the hardest hit countries will be in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The relationship between disease and political instability is indirect but real.

The prevalence of HIV in the armed forces of many African countries is already staggeringly high. The Economist has estimated the HIV prevalence in the Congo range at 50% to 80%. Other recent reports have projected that the South African military and police are also heavily impacted by HIV. Moreover, as these troops participate in an increasing number of regional interventions and peacekeeping operations, the epidemic is likely to spread.

Extremely high levels of HIV infection among senior officers could lead to rapid turnover in those positions. In countries where the military plays a central or strong role in government, such rapid turnover could weaken the central government's authority. For those countries in political transition, this kind of instability could slow or even reverse the transition process. This is a dynamic that deserves serious attention not only in Africa, but also in the Newly Independent States of the Former Soviet Union, and in India where AIDS is intensifying its deadly grip.

The South African Institute for Security Studies has also linked the growing number of children orphaned by AIDS to future increases in crime and civil unrest. The assumption is that as the number of disaffected, troubled, and under-educated young people increases, many sub-Saharan African countries may face serious threats to their social stability. Without appropriate intervention, many of the 2 million children projected to be orphaned by AIDS in South Africa alone will raise themselves on the streets, often turning to crime, drugs, commercial sex, and gangs to survive. This seriously affects stability and promotes the spread of HIV among these highly vulnerable young people.

Yet my message to you today is not one of hopelessness and desolation. On the contrary, I hope to share with you a sense of optimism. For amidst all of this tragedy, there is hope. Amidst this terrible crisis, there is opportunity: the opportunity for us - working together - to empower women, to protect children, and to support families and communities throughout the world in our shared struggle against AIDS.

It is important to remember that what we are talking about today is not numbers but names, not facts and figures but faces and families. Let me tell you the story of one inspirational grandmother I met in a small village outside of Masaka, Uganda.

Bernadette has lost 10 of her 11 adult children to AIDS. Today, at age 70, she is caring for her 35 grandchildren. With loans from a village banking system, she has begun growing sweet potatoes, beans, and maize, raising goats and pigs, and trading in sugar and cooking oil.

With the money she earns, she is now able to send 15 of her grandchildren to school, provide modest treatment for the 5 who are HIV+, and begin construction on a house big enough to sleep them all. In her spare time, she participates in an organization called "United Women's Effort to Save Orphans" - founded by the first lady of Uganda, Mrs. Museveni - linking in solidarity thousands of women allied in the same great struggle.

And these women are not alone. From the young people doing street theater in Lusaka to educate their peers about HIV to the support groups in Soweto providing home and community based care for people living with AIDS - communities are mobilizing and creating ripples of hope.

These are the faces of children and families living in a world with AIDS. And their spirit, their determination, and their resilience lead us on.

The good news is, we know what works. With our partners in Africa we have developed useful knowledge and effective tools. Together, we have designed model programs and proven that they work. And today, we know how to stem the rising tide of new infections, how to provide basic care to those who are sick, and how to mobilize communities to support the growing number of children orphaned by AIDS. Uganda has demonstrated that with strong political commitment and sustained nationwide programs, HIV prevalence can be cut in half. And Senegal has shown that HIV can be stopped in its tracks and prevalence can be kept low. But there is more, much more that needs to be done if we are to bring these successes to scale.

The United States has been engaged in the fight against AIDS here at home since the early 1980s. But increasingly we have come to realize that when it comes to AIDS - both the crisis and the opportunity have no borders. We have much to learn from the experiences of other nations, countries, and the suffering of citizens in our global village touches and affects us all.

The United States has been the leader in the battle against AIDS. The Administration has taken an active role in sounding the alarm on the AIDS crisis in Africa, and in ensuring that the United States supports African efforts to combat this deadly disease.

Since 1986, this nation has contributed over $1 billion to the global fight against AIDS. More than 50% of those funds have been used to address the epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Overall, nearly half of all of the development assistance devoted to HIV care and prevention in the developing world has come from the US. The United States has also been the leading supporter of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS - UNAIDS - contributing more than 25% of its budget.

It is a strong record of engagement and one of which we can be proud, but unfortunately it has not kept pace with this terrible pandemic. We have done much, but there remains much more that the United States and other developed nations can and must do.

During the past year and a half I have made four trips to eight African countries. Together with members and staff from both parties and chambers we went to witness firsthand both the tragedies and triumphs of AIDS in Africa. In response to the findings of these trips, the Administration requested and the Congress appropriated an additional $100 million in FY2000 to enhance our global AIDS efforts.

This new initiative provides for a series of steps to increase US leadership through support for some of the extraordinary community-based programs currently being funded through USAID and to provide much needed technical assistance to developing nations struggling to respond to the needs of their people infected and affected by AIDS. This effort more than doubles our funding for programs of prevention and care in Africa, and challenges our G8 and other partners to increase their efforts as well. This initiative is a significant increase in the US government's investment in the global battle against AIDS and it begins to reflect the magnitude of this rapidly escalating pandemic.

The initiative focuses on four key areas:

  • Prevention. Specifically, we hope to implement a variety of prevention and stigma reduction strategies, especially for women and youth, including: HIV education, engagement of political, religious, and civic leaders, voluntary counseling and testing, interventions to reduce mother-to-child transmission, and enhanced training and technical assistance programs.
  • Home and community-based care. This will help create and enhance counseling and support systems, and help clinics and home health workers provide basic medical care (including treatment for related illnesses like STDs and TB).
  • Care of children orphaned by AIDS. We hope to improve our ability to assist families and communities in caring for their orphaned children through nutritional assistance, education, training, health, and counseling support, in coordination with micro-enterprise programs.
  • Infrastructure. These funds will help to increase the capacity for the effective delivery of essential services through governments, NGOs, and the private sector. We also need to enhance surveillance systems so that we can better track the epidemic and target HIV prevention efforts.

Some of the other key components of this initiative include an increase in our efforts to include the AIDS epidemic in our foreign policy dialogue, both to encourage and support political leadership in hardest hit countries and to promote an increased response by our developed nation partners. We are also taking steps to increase our coordination with the private sector and the many non-governmental organizations working in Africa, including religious organizations.

You will find a more complete description of this initiative - both the problems and solutions - in the report released by the Administration last summer. I have submitted a copy to this Subcommittee and would like to request that it be included in the record as part of my remarks.

While this new initiative greatly strengthens the foundation of a comprehensive response to the pandemic, UNAIDS has estimated that it will take $1 billion to establish an effective HIV prevention program in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently all donors combined are contributing less than $350 million to that end. In addition, UNAIDS estimates that it will take a minimum of $1 billion to begin to deliver even the most basic care and treatment to people with AIDS in the region. We have not even begun to scratch the surface when it comes to delivering treatment.

In the face of such tremendous need, the Administration has requested, in the President's 2001 Budget submission, an additional $100 million increase to enhance and expand our efforts to combat AIDS in Africa and around the world. These funds will enable us to bolster our efforts already underway at USAID and CDC, and to expand our approach to include the Departments of Labor and Defense for efforts to address HIV/AIDS transmission in the workplace and in the military.

Let me repeat, however, that the United States cannot and should not do this alone. This crisis will require engagement from all segments of all societies working together. Every bi-lateral donor, every international lending agency, the corporate community, the foundation community, the religious community and every African government must do their part to provide the leadership and resources necessary to turn the tide. It can be done.

The bottom line is this: We have no vaccine or cure in sight, and we are at the beginning of a global pandemic, not the end. What we see in Africa today, frankly, is just the tip of the iceberg. As goes Africa, so will go India and the Newly lndependent States of the Former Soviet Union. There must be a sense of urgency to work together with our partners in Africa and around the world to learn from the experiences there and to share the successes and avoid the failures in countries now standing on the brink of disaster. Millions of lives - perhaps hundreds of millions of lives - hang in the balance.

We look forward to working closely with each and every one of you, and are so grateful that this issue is receiving the broad-based bipartisan support it deserves. AIDS is not a democratic or republican issue - it is a devastating human tragedy that cries out to all of us for help.

We are one world - and in many ways - Africa's destiny is our destiny. There is hope on the horizon - but that hope will only be realized if we take constructive action together. Today, let us commit to seize this opportunity. And let me conclude by thanking this Subcommittee for its interest in this issue, and offer my continued assistance as you seek ways to respond to this terrible tragedy. As Archbishop Tutu said: "If we wage this holy war together - we will win."

Thank you.




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