Here’s an interview (part 2 of 3) with Stephen Lewis¹, a former diplomat now involved in HIV/AIDS issues. Here are a few curious excerpts (italics added):
What do you think should be done [to fix PEPFAR]?
People should demand more – much more. No one denies that when you pump several billion dollars into a response it will mean something. Of course it will; millions of people will be treated. That’s terribly important.
But that’s what we deserve to expect from the United States. You don’t kneel down before a country because it’s doing… something that the world has a right to receive. The American administration is so discredited, George Bush is such a lamentable president, that when anything of a positive kind happens people are prostrate at the unlikelihood of it and they shouldn’t be.
It gets worse from there, but it’s most important to focus on the key assumption. The world has a right to receive American funding for its problems. I’d like to know the socialist theory Lewis is using to arrive at the conclusion. Presumably we’re only allowed to call our giving “charity” if we need to feed our American egos. The world will acquiesce with that concession, but the dollars must continue to roll in to satisfy the world’s right to receive.
I don’t have anything else nice to say about that, so I’ll move on to the next interesting bit. (Again, italics added.)
How about the response of the United Nations to HIV/Aids in Africa?
There is just so much more to be done. Frankly, one of the things that is inadequate is the United Nations agencies. Some of it is bewildering.
For example, you get the Minister of Health in South Africa (Dr. Manto Tshababala-Msimang [sic]) attacking and dismissing circumcision as a preventive technology. Here you have three determinative studies, definitive studies, we have UNAIDS and WHO encouraging male circumcision as a way of reducing transmission and you get an attack on it by the minister of health in South Africa. Where is the United Nations’ voice? Why haven’t they taken on the minister? Why haven’t they said what should be said, which is that she’s effectively dooming people to death and it need not be done? You have to have a much stronger voice of advocacy from the United Nations in dealing with disease and related matters.
Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang is nuts is HIV, yes, but Lewis’ rant against the United Nations is bizarre. Whether it’s pushing circumcision through UNAIDS with breathless calls-to-action, issuing press releases touting the latest hype on the original story from WHO, or endorsing gender-based human rights violations through its remaining organizational reach, I’m not sure it’s possible to do more for the organization to insert its reach any further into this debate on the wrong side of human rights. But that’s defensible. Instead, let’s complain that they never criticized Dr. Tshabalala-Msimang for being stupid and dangerous.
Except, they did.
The United Nations special envoy for Aids in Africa has closed a major conference on the disease with a sharp critique of South Africa’s government.
Speaking at the end of the week-long gathering in Toronto, Canada, Stephen Lewis said South Africa promoted a “lunatic fringe” attitude to HIV/Aids.
Mr Lewis described the government as “obtuse, dilatory and negligent about rolling out treatment”.
Hey, wait a minute. Stephen Lewis? Stephen Lewis, working as special envoy for AIDS in Africa, attacked Dr. Tshabalala-Msimang’s comments in August 2006. Denouncing idiotic statements is necessary, but move on. Leave the grudge match to the WWE. Instead, every microphone is dead horse meets Stephen Lewis’ stick.
I did thoroughly enjoy this, in an “I’m disgusted” way:
“It really is distressing when the coercive apparatus of the state is brought against the most principled members of society,” he said.
Clearly Lewis is exhibiting a textbook case of Kip’s Law. I would challenge Lewis’ assertion that he is principled, since the UN’s Declaration of the Rights of the Child clearly forbids medically unnecessary genital cutting, without exceptions for gender or potential disease prevention. Nor am I particularly moved by his claim of oppression. Are infants subjected a coercive apparatus when they are circumcised, in part based on the rantings of individuals like Stephen Lewis?
¹ The following biography accompanies the article:
Formerly the special envoy for HIV/Aids in Africa for United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, [Stephen Lewis] is now chairman of the board of the Canada-based Stephen Lewis Foundation, which endeavors to ease the pain of HIV/Aids in Africa by funding grassroots projects. Lewis is also co-director of Aids-Free World, a new international Aids advocacy organization based in the United States.
This will be important later in the entry.