Meditation Focus #68
Fostering a Global Mobilization Against AIDS and Hunger
What follows is the 68th Meditation Focus suggested for the two consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, July 14, 2002.
FOSTERING A GLOBAL MOBILIZATION AGAINST AIDS
2. Meditation times
3. More information on this Meditation Focus
An International AIDS Conference took place in Barcelona, Spain, this past week, to try to fashion a plan to fight the global scourge. Over the last 25 years, more than 60 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV/AIDS. The death toll from the disease, which attacks the immune system, already has exceeded Europe's horrific bubonic plague of the 14th century. In the past two years, 6 million people have contracted the AIDS virus. Every day, 17,000 people die from the disease. Millions of children have been orphaned. The number of children who have lost one or both parents to Aids is expected to double to almost 25 million by 2010. Even worse, health organizations predict 70 million people will die of AIDS in the next 20 years unless more is done. The problem is particularly acute in sub-Saharan Africa, where 30 million people are infected. If left unchecked, the National Intelligence Council expects HIV/AIDS to spread farther in Europe, China, Ethiopia and Nigeria as it has in other African countries. Nearly 40 percent of adults of Botswana's 1.5 million population have the AIDS virus. In Zimbabwe, it's 20 percent. China, where 1 million people are carriers, could have 20 million infected by 2020, and Russia may have half that many cases in five years. The disease has shown up in India as well, where AIDS cases jumped from 400,000 in 1990 to 4 million. Money alone cannot solve the problem. Much of the aid already sent to Africa, including medications, never reached the sick. Government corruption and poor communication and transportation systems complicate the fight. In Africa this terrible situation is compounded by the growing famine that is hitting over 60 million people in the hardest-hit area, which includes Malawi, Zambia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Mozambique. Of those about 12 million are severely affected by the food shortages. Up to 300,000 people in Southern Africa could die over the next six months as a result of severe food shortages following two years of drought. Food on its own is not enough to ensure survival. Drinking water, medicine and vaccines are also needed.
Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks to contribute in fostering a global mobilization againt the double scourge of AIDS and hunger, especially in Southern Africa where the crisis is most acute. There is plenty of available money and resources in the world to ensure that not just 1% of the affected population in those poor countries benefit from the drugs available to turn this disease into a manageable health problem. Likewise, the world can easily afford to care for the food needs of those millions of desperate people if we just accept the notion that sharing is to be the absolute benchmark of our common humanity. Once this key notion is widely accepted AIDS and hunger will be addressed with the proper resources and caring love as the world will mobilize to ensure assistance and support to our brothers and sisters in need wherever they may happen to live on our beautiful planet. May compassion, love and brotherhood be the guiding beacons of all human beings, for the Highest Good of all.
This entire Meditation Focus is also available at http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus68.htm
2. MEDITATION TIMES
i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes.
ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.
These times below are currently corresponding to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:
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+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time. * means the place is observing daylight saving time (DST) at the moment.
You may also check at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/full.html to find your current corresponding local time if a closeby city is not listed above.
3. MORE INFORMATION ON THIS MEDITATION FOCUS
This section is for those who wish to understand in more detail the situation of this Meditation Focus. For those who wish to read on, we would encourage you to view the following information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision you wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mindset, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of healing. We provide the details below because we recognise that the knowledge of what needs healing can assist us to structure our awareness to maximise our healing effect.
See also the previous posted Meditation Focus #66: Alleviating Hunger on Earth (June 9, 2002) http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus66.htm
Mandela brands Aids a war on humanity (July 13, 2002)
AIDS is waging a war against humanity, Nelson Mandela told the final session of the International Aids Conference in Barcelona.
Many people suffering from Aids and not killed by the disease itself are killed by the stigma surrounding everybody who has HIV/Aids. That is why leaders must do everything in their power to fight and to win the struggle against this stigma, the former South African President said.
The number of children who have lost one or both parents to Aids is expected to double to almost 25 million by 2010. The stigma and discrimination inflicted on these children are atrocious and inexcusable, Mr Mandela said.
Aids was claiming more victims than all wars and natural disasters, he said. Aids is a war against humanity.
He said we must turn words into action, and related how when he needed $1 million he asked Bill Clinton, who was then President, for it and he gave it right away. Later he asked President Bush for another $1 million and got that too. He made it sound easy: you ask the President. Anyone can do it.
Mr Mandela told of his own health battles against tuberculosis in jail, and cancer, urging people with HIV and Aids to speak out. When you keep quiet, you are signing your own death warrant.
Mr Mandela and Mr Clinton spoke to the conference, which brought together 15,000 researchers, care workers and activists, as joint presidents of the International Aids Trust. Both men were given a standing ovation. Mr Clinton said that Aids was the central development issue. We cannot lose our war against Aids and win our battle against poverty, promote stability, advance democracy and increase peace and prosperity, he said.
An estimated 48,000 people died from Aids in the five days of the conference. A debate has raged throughout over the balance between prevention and treatment in the developing world.
Economists say that prevention is more cost-effective. But Richard Feacham, the new head of the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said that to ignore the provision of medicines would be like driving past bus crash victims for an urgent meeting on seatbelt legislation.
Addressing the issue of the distribution of drug treatments, the former American President said: How would we explain to someone from outer space that we have the drugs that turn a disease from being a death sentence into a chronic illness and yet people dont get them? Developing countries should figure out what they can pay and then send the rest of us the bill for the difference.
Quoting the Torah, Koran, New Testament and the Bhagavad Gita on the subject of loving your neighbour, Mr Clinton introduced Mr Mandela as one of the few people with the power to make people better than they are.
Mr Clinton called on Washington to increase its contribution toward the $10 billion (£6.4 billion) goal set by the United Nations as a minimum to fund Aids programmes around the world. The US contribution is now $2.8 billion.
Some experts said, however, that even $10 billion may be too little. Even if it were $25 billion a year, it would still be peanuts, Joep Lange, incoming president of the International Aids Society, said.
Seth Berkley, president of the International Aids Vaccine Initiative, said that the meeting had been a reality check on the fight against Aids.
Originally from http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/news/news-aids.html
Whole World Responsible for AIDS, Says Clinton
By Reuters | New York Times
Thursday, 11 July, 2002
BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) - Bill Clinton urged governments on Thursday to do more to fight AIDS and assured young people that wealthy nations would provide extra funds to battle the epidemic if they knew how it would be spent.
The former U.S. president, who is the co-chairman of the International AIDS Trust, described the AIDS epidemic as the biggest single problem for the world, barring nuclear war.
"For the first time in history the world has to take responsibility for a global health crisis,'' he said during a youth forum at the world's biggest AIDS conference.
Africa is most severely affected by HIV/AIDS but it is spreading quickly in Asia, gaining pace in the Caribbean and threatens to explode in India, so no country or government can be complacent, he warned.
Less than a third of the estimated $10 billion needed annually to provide life-saving drugs to poor nations has been pledged to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Clinton said governments must do more.
"It is important that every government has a plan,'' he said.
"We know you need more money, but I would argue that you will get more money if you have a specific plan to spend the money.''
Clinton fielded questions on topics ranging from stigma and condoms to poverty and religion as the youths clustered around him during the informal taping of an MTV special on HIV/AIDS.
LACK OF POLITICAL WILL
Getting antiretroviral drugs, which have transformed HIV/AIDS from a certain death sentence to a treatable illness, and better prevention has been the overriding theme of the week-long conference.
The World Health Organization laid the groundwork to increase access when it announced new guidelines this week to simplify treatment with the goal of getting antiretroviral drugs to three million people by 2005.
Cheaper generic drugs have been shown to work and scientists know they can be administered in countries without sophisticated infrastructures.
But Julio Frenk, Mexico's health minister, told the meeting progress has been obstructed by the lack of political will.
"I am saddened, as you are, by the death of people in a time when effective treatment exists and I feel the same indignation, as you, when it happens,'' he said.
"It is the responsibility of each and every one of our governments to undertake measures to increase antiretroviral therapy on a national level.''
Graca Machel, the wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela and a former first lady of Mozambique, said some countries have initiated prevention programs to stem the epidemic.
"But it is clear that prevention is inextricably tied up with treatment and care, yet many governments continue to be unclear about support for care, and hesitant if not fatalistic about enabling increased access to treatment,'' she said.
The International Labor Office said in a new report that the economic and social impact of HIV/AIDS was far more severe in sub-Saharan Africa than previously thought and would decimate the continent's pool of teachers, doctors and nurses.
Earlier activists had urged South African leaders to heed the messages heard at the conference that anti-AIDS drugs can save lives.
"There is no excuse for not bringing in a national treatment program for people in South Africa,'' said Mark Heywood, the general secretary of Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
One argument against scaling up anti-AIDS treatment in poor countries, apart from the cost of drugs, has been the lack of infrastructure and trained medical staff to administer the complex drug regimens and monitor their impact on patients.
But Paul Farmer, of Harvard Medical School, used treatment programs in Haiti to show that introducing antiretroviral drugs in poor countries was possible and effective.
"It's not as if poor people are a different species. These drugs work for everyone,'' he said.
Clinton, Mandela Call for AIDS Action (Jul 12)
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Former President Clinton and South African leader Nelson Mandela called on world leaders Friday to recognize that the AIDS epidemic is a threat to international peace and economic stability.
"We cannot lose our war against AIDS and win our battle against poverty, promote stability, advance democracy and increase peace and prosperity," Clinton told a Barcelona audience that cheered wildly as he and Mandela embraced.
"One hundred million AIDS cases means more terror, more mercenaries, more war, destruction, and the failure of fragile democracies," Clinton said at the close of the 14th International AIDS Conference.
Clinton called on governments of rich countries to "figure out what our share is" of the yearly $10 billion that the United Nations says is needed to finance global AIDS programs.
He said that America should increase its spending by nearly $2 billion, which would amount to "less than two months of the Afghan war, less than 3 percent of the requested increase of defense and homeland security budgets."
Earlier, Clinton expressed remorse about not having done more while he was president to fight the epidemic, apologizing for not supporting needle exchange programs for drug abusers. "Do I wish I could have done more? Yes, but I do not know that I could have done it," he said in an interview with The New York Times.
Mandela, who had tuberculosis while he was imprisoned during the apartheid era, noted that AIDS is claiming more victims "than all wars and natural disasters."
"AIDS is a war against humanity ... this is a war that requires the mobilization of entire populations."
He called for access to HIV-fighting drugs "for all those that need it, wherever they may be in the world, regardless of whether they can afford it."
As the largest ever gathering of fighters in the battle against AIDS drew to a close, experts said more determination and more money must be devoted to the worldwide war against the epidemic if the heartless march of HIV across the globe is to be thwarted.
Issues that dominated the weeklong gathering, which drew 15,000 people, included the need to get drugs to more people, the plight of women in HIV-ravaged nations and a honing in on how much the efforts will cost over the next decade.
Experts say that rich nations need to donate $10 billion a year. Current spending stands at about $2.8 billion. As always, the call for more money to finance work in the developing world was a major focus.
Nobody wrote a fat check. But the German government pledged another $50 million to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on the last day of the conference. The next such gathering is set for Thailand in 2004
Seth Berkley, president of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, called the Barcelona conference "a splash of cold water" on how the world is doing in the fight against AIDS.
Expectations that there would be widespread access to anti-AIDS drugs in poor countries were shattered by a U.N. report, released the week before the conference, saying only 30,000 people were taking the drugs in sub-Saharan Africa, Berkley said.
In the developing world as a whole, less than 1 percent of people infected with the AIDS virus are receiving drug treatment, according to a recent World Health Organization report.
African doctors said one of the issues not discussed at the conference was that in many cases, HIV patients resell their drugs to villagers to get money for food and that the buyers do not know how to take the medicines properly.
On the science side, favorable results with a new type of drug was good news for patients whose infections have become resistant to all current treatments offering lifesaving treatment for those who have run out of options.
However, concerns were raised by a report of an American HIV patient who had become infected again with a similar strain of the virus, causing a superinfection untouched by all the drugs.
There were also new findings making it even more unlikely that it will ever be possible to eradicate the virus from the body once it has invaded.
There is still no cure and no preventive vaccine on the horizon.
"That makes the case for prevention stronger than ever," said Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, deputy HIV chief at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We have to be careful not to let prevention be overshadowed by the significant treatment issues.
"Lets reinvigorate our efforts and approach this epidemic the way we did in the 1980s and 1990s, where we did see a tremendous change in behavior and decreases in transmission," Valdiserri said.
New statistics revealed how the epidemic is evolving globally experts predicted increasing numbers of AIDS orphans, a rising proportion of new infections in young people and a shift toward a majority of infections occurring in young women.
On the Net:
International AIDS Conference: http://www.AIDS2002.com
ORPHANED BY AIDS
May 9, 2002
An estimated 650,000 children have lost a parent to AIDS in Zambia, an African country where 20 percent of adults suffer from AIDS/HIV.
JIM LEHRER: At the United Nations yesterday, a 13-year-old Bolivian girl told an international assembly, "We are street children. We are the victims and orphans of HIV/AIDS." The scene was the first special UN session devoted to the problems of children around the world. Nowhere is the problem of AIDS and children more acute than in southern Africa. We have a report from Zambia by special correspondent Jonathan Silvers.
JONATHAN SILVERS: Since the AIDS pandemic began 20 years ago, the disease has claimed more than 15 million lives in sub-Saharan Africa. In Zambia, one of the countries hardest hit, the Ministry of Health expects that half the population will die of AIDS. The impact on children has been devastating. In Zambia, 40,000 children under age 15 are believed to be infected; 650,000 children have been orphaned or left with one parent.
Assessing the situation
DR. STELLA GOINGS, UNICEF Zambia: It's very hard to find a family in Zambia that hasn't been personally touched. It's very hard to find a child that hasn't seen or witnessed a death related to HIV/AIDS. The extended family in the community structure, they've really broken under the weight of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and poverty, and when the burden becomes too great, families are unable to cope anymore, and so we're seeing tremendous numbers of orphans and children who are no longer able to be cared for by their extended family.
And in the midst of all that, we are seeing within the communities themselves and within extended families truly heroic efforts to absorb the children, to work with them, to give them the nurturing and caring in the environment, in their own communities that is so necessary for this next generation.
JIM LEHRER: Participants at the special UN Session hope to produce a plan to address the plight of children orphaned by AIDS. It's expected to call for more programs to increase community support and protections from abuse and exploitation. That UN session ends tomorrow.
Global AIDS plague must be slowed
July 12, 2002
Our position: The United States and other nations must do all they can to stop the spread of AIDS. The news is not good in the battle against AIDS. The world is losing ground fast against the deadly disease.
The $200 million pledge from the Bush administration, half of which is earmarked to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS from mother to child, is expected to make only a dent. The sheer size of the problem suggests that turning things around won't be easy.
Over the last 25 years, more than 60 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV/AIDS. The death toll from the disease, which attacks the immune system, already has exceeded Europe's horrific bubonic plague of the 14th century.
In the past two years, 6 million people have contracted the AIDS virus. Every day, 17,000 people die from the disease. Millions of children have been orphaned.
Even worse, health organizations predict 70 million people will die of AIDS in the next 20 years unless more is done. The problem is particularly acute in sub-Saharan Africa, where 30 million people are infected.
If left unchecked, the National Intelligence Council expects HIV/AIDS to spread farther in Europe, China, Ethiopia and Nigeria as it has in other African countries. Nearly 40 percent of adults of Botswana's 1.5 million population have the AIDS virus. In Zimbabwe, it's 20 percent.
China, where 1 million people are carriers, could have 20 million infected by 2020, and Russia may have half that many cases in five years. The disease has shown up in India as well, where AIDS cases jumped from 400,000 in 1990 to 4 million.
Congress was posed to pass a supplemental spending bill that would have sent $500 million to the global fund to fight three of the world's deadliest diseases -- AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria -- when the Bush administration pulled its support. The administration instead approved $100 million to prevent mother-to-child transmissions and $100 million for the AIDS fund. More must be done to avert massive deaths.
Money alone, however, won't solve the problem. Much of the aid already sent to Africa, including medications, never reached the sick. Government corruption and poor communication and transportation systems complicate the fight.
At the International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, this week, world leaders have been trying to fashion a plan to fight the global scourge. They must not fail.
AIDS 2002 Today
Scaling-Up: Lessons from Brazil (July 12, 2002)
There is no Brazilian model. What we have been doing is to put into practice principles that have long been recognised by the international community, declared Dr Paulo Teixeira, Director of the Brazilian STD/AIDS Programme in Thursdays plenary.
At the very core [of Brazils programme] is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted more than 54 years ago. None of these outcomes could have been achieved without embracing a balanced prevention and treatment approach and the firm advocacy of the human rights of people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, said Teixeira.
Brazil has implemented a comprehensive prevention programme focusing on condom use. It has achieved a significant reduction in the rate of incidence particularly in more vulnerable populations, including men who have sex with men, sex workers and injection drug users.
No time can be spent with ambiguous prevention messages. HIV transmission happens [primarily] through sexual contact and prevention is made through condom use. Other alternatives, such as postponement and abstinence are indubitably incompatible with our global reality, said Teixeira.
Controlling the AIDS epidemic also [requires] mobilising the entire national capacity to offer antiretroviral treatment, even when the optimal infrastructure is not available, said Teixeira.
The number of AIDS deaths has fallen dramatically since the adoption of antiretroviral therapy. Survival has increased dramatically. The average survival time is now close to five years, a twelve-fold increase reported Dr Ricardo Marins in a poster at this conference.
In Brazil, the average treatment cost per patient each year decreased by half in recent years. This occurred as a result of two related factors.
Firstly, investments were made by the Ministry of Health to establish domestic national laboratories. Brazil distributes fifteen antiretroviral drugs of which eight are locally produced.
Secondly, Brazil has effectively negotiated price reductions with Abbott, Merck and Roche to cut the price of four drugs by more than 50%. Teixeira indicated that national production under compulsory licensing has been a strong argument to push these companies to the negotiation table.
Brazil has 600,000 persons living with HIV and has had more than 220,000 cases of AIDS reported to the Ministry of Health since the beginning of the epidemic. This is less than 50% of the number predicted by the World Bank a few years ago.
U.N. health agency foresees 300,000 deaths in Southern African famine (Jul 10)
GENEVA - Up to 300,000 people in Southern Africa could die over the next six months as a result of severe food shortages following two years of drought, the U.N. health agency said Wednesday.
"There is now a severe humanitarian crisis," said Dr. David Nabarro, a senior official of the World Health Organization. The United Nations earlier this month appealed for dlrs 507 million to buy food for the region, but Nabarro said food on its own is not enough to ensure survival. "We have to also address the urgent health-care needs of the population," he said. Drinking water, medicine and vaccines are also needed.
WHO officials expect to issue an appeal for around dlrs 19 million to improve health care in the region. Nabarro said up to 60 million people are in the hardest-hit area, which includes Malawi, Zambia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Mozambique.
Of those about 12 million are severely affected by the food shortages, he said. "And we expect that number to increase over the next few months. Our calculations suggest that the crisis in this region could result in up to 300,000 'excess deaths' during the next six months," he said. "This is a conservative estimate."
The increased death toll would likely result mainly from diseases that infect people whose resistance drops because they are malnourished, he said.
"We're seeing a continuing rise in tuberculosis and acute chest infections," Nabarro said.
Health workers have found increased mortality rates in all population groups, he said. Women have begun showing an increased risk of dying as a result of problems during pregnancy.
Nils Kastberg of UNICEF said many of those at risk are children under the age of 5. Nabarro said health problems have worsened in part because of a reduction in the number of medical workers. Some of them left the region because of difficult working conditions. The number also has declined because they have been infected by the AIDS virus that is prevalent in the region, he said.
Mother of courage cares for dying as famine boosts Aids (July 12, 2002)
(...) Nearly six million people in Zimbabwe, almost half the population, now need emergency food rations, according to the United Nations Relief and Recovery Units latest bulletin, issued this week. Simultaneously, UNAidss Barcelona report on global Aids this week estimated that 34 per cent of Zimbabweans between the ages of 15 and 49 are infected with the virus. Aids and famine were made for each other. Lack of nutrition lowers the bodys resistance, and the virus is let loose to ravage the infected person. The viruss spread is accelerated as the hungry sell themselves for a meal. When breadwinners die, their infant orphans and elderly relations have not much more to expect than starvation. On the scale of numbers affected in Zimbabwe now, the combination is apocalyptic.
This is a nightmare scenario, said John English, emergencies officer for the British Red Cross, which is helping the Zimbabwe Red Cross to distribute food and medicines. People are already hungry, all over the country. Most people are eating one meal a day, but some are going four days without eating.
This crisis cannot be addressed without looking at the HIV pandemic, Mr English said. The figure is one in three adults, and that means every family in the country is affected by the disease. Add to that food shortages, lack of drugs, decrease in hygiene standards and you are looking at a massive, massive human catastrophe. It has the potential of being on a much bigger scale than East Africa and Ethiopia in the mid-Eighties.
Millions in Zimbabwe Face Hunger (Jul 3)
The United Nations has said about half of Zimbabwe's 12.5 million people are in danger of going hungry this year after drought and government seizures of white-owned commercial farms nearly destroyed the grain harvest. (...) The Agriculture Ministry said Tuesday it needed to import $50 million worth of grain to meet even the country's 440,000 tons interim needs. The United Nations said Zimbabwe would need to import about 2 million tons to make it through the year.
Roasted mice a small comfort to hungry Malawi (July 13, 2002)
AIDS Risk in Zimbabwe http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/hsn/20020712/hl_hsn/aids_risk_in_zimbabwe
July 11 (HealthScoutNews) -- Economic need forces many teen-age girls in Zimbabwe to offer sex to older men in return for money and gifts, and it's a major cause of the spread of HIV in that country. That's the claim of new research from the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). The researchers collected data from eight focus group discussions that included 71 male and female teens, aged 16 to 19 years old, from two urban sites. The study was being presented today at the International AIDS Conference in Barcelona. CLIP
U.S. Accuses Zimbabwe of Political Use of Food Aid http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20020711/pl_nm/zimbabwe_usa_dc_2
For additional facts about AIDS in Zimbabwe, visit AIDS Zimbabwe at http://www.rnw.nl/humanrights/zimbabwe/index.html
AIDS in Africa - features reports, analysis, and links to related sites about the epidemic. From PBS' Online NewsHour. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/aids_in_africa/index.html
Aids in Africa http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/in_depth/africa/2000/aids_in_africa/default.stm
A clickable guide to the Aids epidemic in Africa
Africa devastated by Aids (28 November, 2001)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/africa/newsid_1679000/1679619.stml Aids is the biggest threat to Africa's development, according to the United Nations
In-depth coverage about Africa AIDS Epidemic
In-depth coverage about AIDS-HIV
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