With help from the U.S., Zambia has announced it will increase free- and low-cost distribution of anti-retroviral drugs to citizens infected with AIDS. Today, only about thirteen-thousand-five-hunded Zambians receive AIDS medication.
Levy Mwanawasa, Zambia's president, says his goal is to deliver drugs to one-hundred-thousand Zambians by the end of 2005. That will cover about half of those with full-blown AIDS. President Mwanawasa says, "The impact on the health care delivery system is enormous, with fifty percent of hospital beds occupied by patients with H-I-V and AIDS-related illnesses."
Since 1984, nearly seven-hundred-thousand Zambians -- out of a population of ten million -- have died as a result of AIDS. An estimated one-in-six adult Zambians are infected with H-I-V, the virus that causes AIDS.
Zambia is one of fifteen countries receiving special focus under President George W. Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. These countries account for approximately half the world's H-I-V infections. Besides Zambia, they are Botswana, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam. Ambassador Randall Tobias, U.S. global AIDS coordinator, says the U.S. is already seeing results from its five-year, fifteen-billion dollar effort to combat the disease:
"People living with H-I-V/AIDS are beginning to receive anti-retroviral treatment in sub-Saharan Africa."
Worldwide, AIDS has killed at least twenty-million people, and nearly forty-million are infected. The impact of AIDS-infected workers leaving their jobs and the cost of caring for them have led to economic decline in many countries.
The disease has also left fourteen-million orphans. "Children cannot reach their potential if they're locked in a struggle for daily survival," says Ambassador Tobias. The U.S., he says, is offering hope to communities hit hard by AIDS in Zambia and elsewhere.