AIDS and Global Health

While the global HIV/AIDS pandemic requires continued attention, an AIDS specialist with 15 years experience says we are ignoring many other basic health needs that are claiming millions of lives.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Daniel Halperin makes a convincing argument that “the real world needs of Africans struggling to survive should not continue to be subsumed by the favorite causes du jour of of well-meaning yet often uninformed Western donors.”

Halperin says current spending priorities neglect more basic health threats. For example, he asks, “With 10 million children and a half million mothers in developing countries dying annual of largely preventable conditions, should we multiply AIDS spending while giving only a pittance for initiatives like safe-water projects?”

Halperin suggests if people in any African village were asked about their greatest concerns they would answer “hunger, dirty water and environmental devastation.”

Halperin’s op-ed will spark debate. My experience has been that merely suggesting providing funds for other diseases and causes–in addition to continued funding for HIV/AIDS–is to invite all manner of criticism. But Halperin’s credentials place him in good position to raise these critical questions.

It’s a debate worth having. A more equitable distribution of resources could save lives. Global health expenditures should not be viewed as a zero sum game. What Halperin is proposing is an holistic approach to health. The conversation need not be about winners and losers. It should be about saving lives by addressing hunger, vaccinations, creating clean water systems and ending poverty.

It’s not about competing for funds, it’s about creating a better life for everyone. If we were to focus on that we’d all be winners.

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