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San Francisco Examiner
EDITORIAL: Onslaught of AIDS in Africa
Examiner Editorial Writer
November 10, 1998
WHILE the number of AIDS deaths in this country and other industrialized nations is on the decline, the epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa is growing at frightening speed. A report published by the United Nations shows that AIDS is devastating the population growth of some African countries, and is expected to cut life expectancy in the region from 61 years in 1993 to just 41 years by 2005.

In these sub-Saharan countries, as much as a quarter of the population is infected with the HIV virus. Some experts, including Carol Bellamy, head of UNICEF, believe countries such as Botswana and Zimbabwe could lose 20 percent of their population to the epidemic in the next decade.

"In looking over global epidemics," Lester Brown, president of World Watch Institute, told The New York Times, "one has to go back to the 16th century and the introduction of smallpox in the Aztec population of what is now Mexico to find anything on that scale, and before that, to the bubonic plague in Europe in the 14th century. . . .."

This new African plague cries out for remedy.

The industrialized countries shouldn't be lulled by their own domestic success in combating AIDS as an excuse to do less in the rest of the world. They must redouble their efforts in Africa at education, prevention and treatment - all techniques that have worked at home to reduce the spread of HIV.

Leaders must not let any backward ideas about "morality" affect political decisions to fund family planning abroad. The only immorality in a discussion of AIDS is knowing that deaths can be prevented but failing to prevent them.