This book wasn't on my original African Reading Challenge list, and I wrote this review for PlusNews, but, there was one thing I wanted to discuss here that didn't really fit with that review.
First, a bit from my review:
In a new book, Genocide by Denial: How Profiteering from HIV/AIDS Killed Millions, Dr Peter Mugyenyi tells the story of the AIDS epidemic in Uganda from its frontlines: hospitals, orphanages, graveyards, witch doctors' homes – everywhere but from a drug supply cupboard.
Mugyenyi was one of the founders of Uganda's Joint Clinical Research Centre for HIV/AIDS (JCRC), which pioneered the provision of life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatment in Uganda in the mid-1990s.
The book is a personal account of "throw[ing] a bucket of water into the towering inferno" of Uganda's HIV epidemic at a time when the country could do little more than look on as its people died slow and preventable deaths.
After doing his medical training in the United Kingdom, Mugyenyi returned to Uganda to find a mounting death toll from AIDS. Every day he watched parents burying their children and children burying parents. The drugs that could save his patients' lives were available, if they could only afford them. "The vast majority of my patients died not just of AIDS but of poverty," he writes.
The vast majority of my patients died not just of AIDS but of poverty
Mugyenyi had to turn away thousands of patients, including some of his own relatives, because the life-saving medication was so prohibitively expensive; neither his relatives nor his many other patients could understand why, if there were drugs for their condition, they could not get them.
In his narrative about Uganda's battle for affordable AIDS drugs, Mugyenyi recalls details that are almost unimaginable in today's world of $10-a-month ARVs: how at the height of the epidemic people started planning funerals as soon as their relatives began coughing; and how Kampala's ubiquitous pork eateries gained popularity as people sought to avoid the weight loss associated with 'slim' disease [a local euphemism for HIV/AIDS].
What I wanted to add, I will quote directly from the book, about the combination of two topics I write about too often: orphans and misguided attempts at aid.
Setup: well meaning aid workers trawl the slums looking for AIDS orphans to help, many of whom are staying with relatives and extended family members. The aid workers provide blankets, school fees, and other assistance to the orphans - just the orphans.
What these well meaning benefactors did not immediately realize were the dire circumstances endured by all children in the home. They all lived and shared the same miserable conditions. The added burden of orphans in their destitute family had made their dire situation much more miserable. All the children spent nights huddled together trying without success to keep warm in the dilapidated dwelling as they all had no blankets. Reportedly only two of the children were now going to school... It does not take much imagination to visualize what the atmosphere in the shanty home must have been like after the departure of the naive donors.
See more of my PlusNews reporting:
Using mobile phones to fight AIDS
Marriage, the new frontier in HIV prevention
Dating is so hectic, I put a personal ad in the paper
Overcrowded Prisons heighten TB risk
The government is only looking after straight people
Change brings new risk for the Karamojong
(The list goes on and on - a good portion of the PlusNews reporting from Uganda comes from the Scarlett Lion laptop.)
(And yes, the red background behind the book cover pictured above is indeed my dining room table.)
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
"Genocide by Denial" : African Reading Challenge