An interesting, frustrating debate is going on among a few concerned folks in The United Methodist Church about AIDS and malaria. The concern is that by giving attention to malaria AIDS is being neglected. In addition, the claim was made recently that malaria is an easier disease to attack, carries no stigma as AIDS, and is a way to avoid the pandemic.
It’s an interesting argument but one that is full of holes, and even unnecessary. Tackling malaria is not an abdication to AIDS. The interrelationship between HIV/AIDS and malaria is clear. Those affected by AIDS are at greater risk of even more complications if they also contract malaria. To ignore this is to add to the burden of AIDS, not to decrease it.
Eradicating malaria would reduce the drain it places on national health care systems, medical staffs and families of infected individuals. Reducing this burden so that increased resoures can be directed toward AIDS should be part of any comprehensive strategy.
Malaria keeps poor people poor. Sick farmers can’t plant or harvest. Sick mothers can’t care for their families. Sick children can’t attend clases and sick teachers can’t teach. So long as malaria exacts this toll it will continue to be a drag on productivity and economic development.
Eradicating malaria is no small challenge. To tackle malaria is also to tackle AIDS and to reduce poverty. This is hardly a choice to choose an easier challenge.
But the most important point is that tackling one disease is not to ignore the other. This is a false choice. At the root of the effort to tackle malaria, AIDS and poverty is a concern to improve the quality of life of people facing a struggle to survive. The goal is to improve life, not to compete as if this is a zero sum game. It’s not. The challenge is to make people whole by creating the conditions for all to thrive. This is to move toward life and see it in its wholeness.
The debate is an unnecessary diversion based on a false dichotomy that is more distracting than enlightening.