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Skewed reporting: Headlines demonstrate our failure to care

May 30, 2009

The Globe & Mail’s Geoff York wrote a piece today regarding the world’s continued failure to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, resulting in 900 babies a day in the developing world being born with the virus. As York explains, despite the fact that “world’s governments promised in 2001 that HIV infections among newborn babies would be reduced by 50 per cent by 2010,” currently only 1/3 of all HIV positive women receive the necessary treatment to ensure that the virus isn’t transmitted, most of which “is so inadequate that it fails to prevent them from transmitting the virus to their babies.”

To add insult to injury, York reports that world governments and aid agencies have been “cooking the books” in order to make it look like PMTCT programmes were wide spread and effective. Canadian AIDS activist Stephen Lewis, whom I wrote about last week, says that the fact that most of these women don’t have access to treatment and prevention “makes…access a simple mockery.”

This comes weeks after the World Bank a report regarding how AIDS funding will likely be affected in light of the global economic crisis. The report predicts that the crisis will impact country’s home to 61% of those currently on treatment. “Much is at risk: treatment that is keeping 23.4 million people alive and healthy; the plans and global promises to expand access to the other two-thirds of all people with HIV who urgently need treatment now (whose numbers grow daily); and efforts to further reduce the number of new infections, now 2.7 million each year.”

The Bank has previously proclaimed: “the global economic crisis will cause an addition 22 children to die per hour, throughout all of 2009… it’s possible that the toll will be twice that: an additional 400,000 child deaths, or an extra child dying every 79 seconds.”

The headline story of the New York Times webpage this morning proclaimed “Crisis Stings Britons in France and Spain,” stating that British ex-pats were having trouble hanging on to their retirement and second homes. Since the crisis hit last year I’ve seen more stories proclaiming the plight of Wall Street bankers and desperate housewives, while stories like York’s and reports from the World Bank rarely make headlines. The effect of the crisis on the majority of the world, and particularly the world’s most vulnerable, is shameful enough; but our failure to notice is unforgivable.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. nmboudin permalink*
    May 31, 2009 12:52 pm

    That is tragic, especially when it has been proven that AZT treatments significantly reduce transmission from mothers to babies. The world seems to have forgotten its 2001 commitment to reducing transmissions by 50%.

    We need to seriously invest in drug production facilities on location in African countries to avert even bigger disasters. This would be different from charity. What developed country has not benefitted from investment?

    In the end, it will be less expensive for developed nations to invest in self-sustaining infrastructure in struggling countries, in both fiscal and human costs.

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