At the risk of sounding like a naive Miss America Contestant or a Sally Struthers commercial, I'm going to address the AIDS pandemic devastating regions engulfed in extreme poverty, namely Africa. But why should Americans care about Africa? Well in an age where a "global community" is no longer a far-fetched concept, American citizens representing freedom, justice, and equality, should care a great deal.
I, as many, am guilty of fitting the bill of an "ignorant American," too complacent and comfortable in the bubble of my freedoms to grasp the dire injustices of the outside world. But change is calling.
Africa is a continent suffering from the most deadly health threat since the bubonic plague. Everyday 6500 Africans die from AIDS, another 8500 are infected, 1400 of whom are children. According to Jeffrey Sachs, a Harvard Economist, "there are currently 12 million orphans in Africa who have lost their parents to AIDS, there will 20 million by the year 2010 in Sub-Saharan Africa alone." Three generation old interest-clad debts sustain Africa's poverty and prevent governments from establishing capable health care and education systems.
All kinds of causes exist, important causes deserving attention, support, and action. The AIDS crisis is more than a cause, it is an emergency. However, we would never know it since the issue is consistently absent from the front lines of the news. Thousands of lives lost daily to a preventable, treatable disease for lack of money is a price that our integrity and humanity cannot afford.
How do we combat AIDS then? With an endless string of fundraisers and celebrity telethons? The 1980's Live Aid concerts raised an unprecedented $200 million for Africa. However, the rude awakening was that African countries pay that amount every five days in debt service payments! Obviously charity alone will not suffice.
But what is sufficient? Recently, a new approach emerged to solve the pandemic. Bi-partisan organizations like Jubilee 2000, Drop the Debt, DATA, and The One Campaign broadened political horizons past the scope of charity and incorporated justice into the equation of social economic issues. They petition The World Bank and wealthy countries to cancel the debts of the poorest countries. In 2005, the G-8 Summit canceled over $40 billion of debt as a result of such organizations. The One Campaign, in particular, does not ask for money from the public, but only their voice. I am more than willing to devote my voice to this emergency. The equality America symbolizes, idealizes, and aspires to must travel beyond our borders and cross the seas to our suffering African brethren. To lend your voice to demand social justice, go to www.one.org and sign the One Campaign petition. To find out more information about the African crisis go to www.data.org. I want to be part of a generation attempting to wipe out the spread of AIDS and extreme poverty. I hope you do as well.