News Analysis
Stem Cell Policy
Drug Development
AIDS in Africa
Investor Profile
Larry Ellison
Case Studies
In Every Issue
Editor's Letter


How to Save Africa

The invisible hand, AIDS, and the developing world.

“The numbers numb,” as Archbishop Desmond Tutu memorably put it.1 The scale of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa is sometimes difficult to grasp. In truth, we don't even know how bad it is; governments sometimes minimize the official numbers they report to the United Nations. For instance, while the United Nations reports 5.5 million infections in Russia, China, and India, the U.S. intelligence community puts the figure closer to 12 million.2, 3 But U.N. numbers for Africa are frightening enough: the agency estimates that 29.4 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live with HIV. Three million are children.

The pace of infection is also hard to comprehend: according to U.N. figures, 3.5 million people contracted HIV in sub-Saharan Africa last year alone. Here's one way to grasp these numbers: by the time you finish reading this article—in about 12 minutes—sub-Saharan Africa will see 80 more people infected with HIV and 55 more deaths from AIDS.

Individual stories, too, are startling. Consider Collen Molema, for example, an engaging 22-year-old working in Botswana's capital, Gaborone. He doesn't use condoms because he doesn't have a girlfriend. He doesn't have a girlfriend because “almost all my friends have died from this. . . . I have two friends left.”

The responses of many African governments to the pandemic have been wholly inadequate, ranging from occasional, ineffective bursts of energy and halfhearted, dispirited engagement, to willful ignorance and inactivity. The traditional mechanism for fighting disease in Africa—international donors raising the monies and African governments distributing it—has proved insufficient. If the pandemic is not to be one of the worst disasters in history, industry and the private sector must work alongside of, and sometimes around, the more hapless public sector. This essay describes some of the more interesting and effective examples of recent partnerships between government and business in fighting AIDS in Africa.


AIDS in Africa:

Countries Most Threatened