by Sylvia Weinstein
The Real Killers Among Us
The capitalist class, the drug cartels, and the profit motive have allowed millions to die from the HIV virus. The real killers of those millions are the imperialist capitalists, who profit from drugs that -if made affordable-could arrest the disease that is destroying millions of lives in third world countries and minorities in this country.
Over 11 million children have been left orphaned by AIDS since 1981. By the end of next year, some 2 million more children will lose their mother or father.
Over 10 million in sub-Saharan Africa, 200,000 in South and Southeast Asia, 100,000 in Latin America, 83,000 in the Caribbean, 70,000 in North America, 15,000 in North Africa and Middle East, 9000 in Western Europe, 5600 in East Asia and Pacific, 500 in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and less than 500 in Australia and New Zealand. These numbers represent HIV-negative children who have lost their mother or both parents before age 15.
Dr. Peter Piot, the head of the UN program on AIDS, told about the lives of these orphans. All but 5 percent of the world’s orphans live in countries below the Sahara. In the past, age-old networks of immediate and extended families would have cared for these orphans. But the traditional African extended family is breaking down under the unprecedented burden of the pandemic.
Orphans are “the most forgotten aspect of the AIDS epidemic,” said Dr. Piot. He said that for many of these children, the future is bleak. Many end up as child laborers or roaming the streets, leaving them prime targets for gangs and right-wing militias, and creating more child armies like those that participated in massacres in Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa.
Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, president of the UN General Assembly, said that had so many children been orphaned in wealthy parts of North America or Europe, “their fate would have already been declared a human tragedy.”
The orphan issue affects people of all ages. In Africa in 1998, 200,000 people were killed in wars and conflicts while AIDS killed 2.2 million others. “The worst is yet to come,” the UN report stated.
Children are growing up knowing little about their parents and many find themselves thrust into the role of mother or father, or both, as they look after siblings. And Africans who were expecting their children to care for them in their advanced years now have to care for their grandchildren.
The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS joined with the United Nations in calling for widespread AIDS counseling and volunteer testing for HIV, support for the psycho-social needs of orphans, and increased community protection of women’s and children’s rights.
Even more important is the need to realize that the corporate drug companies are making enormous profits out of this killer disease.
Combinations of newly developed drugs have cut the U.S. AIDS death rate in half since 1996. But at the cost of more than $1000 a month, such therapies are out of reach for third world countries, where 90 percent of the world’s people with AIDS reside. So the capitalists are plotting to prevent countries from making their own drugs, saying this is an assault on “intellectual properties.”
The drug companies are fighting parallel importing, which would force a drug company to license its patent to a local manufacture, making the cost of drugs much cheaper than importing them from the parent company.
I have a simple suggestion: let’s nationalize all drug companies-declare them an enemy of the people-and take them over and distribute any and all drugs as needed. Make it illegal for any company to own drugs which are needed to let people survive.
Use the defense budget to build drug manufacturing outlets in any country that needs it. No profits on human lives-human needs before profits! That’s a simple solution to a massive outrage of a problem.