ASMARA, Eritrea -- In 1991, as AIDS was just beginning to
impact Africa, two countries that exemplify how the war against AIDS in Africa
is being won and lost experienced dramatic political developments.
In South Africa, Nelson Mandela was released from prison and
went on to become the first African President of South Africa.
In 1991, South Africa had the largest, most developed
economy in Africa. South Africa had a large, modern, profitable mining,
agriculture and fishing industry. South Africa was the center of an extended,
modern transportation infrastructure including road and rail systems that
covered most of southern Africa. South Africa had a growing tourism industry
and a steel and auto manufacturing sector as well.
At the time of Mandela�s release from prison the average
life expectancy in South Africa was 61 years. Today AIDS is ravaging South
Africa, killing some 3,000 a day, over 1,000,000 a year, with millions more
people infected. Soweto alone buries 900 a day due to AIDS.
Today in South Africa, the average life expectancy is 45
years and falling steadily.
To summarize the attitude towards AIDS amongst the
leadership of South Africa, the newly elected president of South Africa, Jacob
Zuma, in an interview a few years ago, confirmed that he had had unprotected
sex (without a condom) with a woman with HIV. When asked whether he was worried
about being infected with HIV his reply was that he didn�t need to worry
because he had taken a shower after having sex with her.
In contrast stands the small, newly independent country of
In 1991, Eritrea, after a 30-year war against a genocidal
Ethiopian occupation, won its independence. When Eritrea militarily defeated
the Ethiopian army and declared its independence, the Eritrean economy was
completely devastated and 80 percent of the Eritrean people were dependent on
foreign food aid for their survival.
Today, even after surviving another Ethiopian invasion and a
worst in memory two-year drought, Eritrea is the only country in Africa to have
actually reduced HIV infection rates. According to representatives for
Physicians for Peace, Eritrea has reduced HIV infection rates by almost 40
percent in the last 10 years. The World Bank recently use the word �remarkable�
to describe the rapid rise in Eritrea�s average life expectancy rate.
In the mid 1990s, the Eritrean leadership declared AIDS to
be a threat to Eritrea�s national security and launched a major public
education campaign featuring billboards, radio and television advertising
promoting condom use amongst its people.
These two starkly different examples show how the war
against AIDS is being won and lost in Africa. Of course, bad news on how AIDS
is ravaging Africa is regularly featured in the Western media while the fact
that Eritrea is demonstrating how AIDS can be defeated remains a well-kept
Stay tuned to Online Journal for more news from Africa�s
Horn that the so called �free press in the West� refuses to cover.
Thomas C. Mountain, the last white man living in
Eritrea, was in a former life, educator, activist and alternative medicine
practitioner in the USA. Email thomascmountain at yahoo.com.