Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Law of Unintended Consequences

I am not an expert on this, but my understanding is that the huge amounts of money lavished on AIDS in Africa have distorted some countries’ primary health care systems, resulting in a brain drain from primary care into AIDS treatment. Doctors who once saved lives through simple treatments now work in prestigious, Western-funded AIDS treatment programs that save far fewer lives per dollar.

Dying of AIDS is no picnic (I watched it destroy my father by inches) especially in sub-Saharan Africa. But it's worth remembering that death by malaria isn't much fun either-and malaria is a relatively cheap disease to defeat, yet AIDS gets all the funding. I suppose the problem is that malaria isn't sexy. Quick, name somebody famous who died of malaria...I can't name any either. Do old fashioned tropical diseases need a Freddie Mercury, Rudolph Nureyev, or Rock Hudson before somebody takes this seriously? International health organization and NGO's ought allocate their scarce resources on a cost benefit basis, not based on the demands of media and Hollywood.

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