AIDS in Africa: treating the "untreatable"

“We cannot let a disease for which a treatment exists mow down millions and leave a continent of orphans,” said writer Mark Schoofs, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for his coverage of aids in Africa published in the Village Voice. Without treatment, he said, Africa faces a plague of “biblical proportions.” In sub-Saharan Africa, where 24.5 million people are living with aids, the disease threatens to wipe out 10 percent of the population and make orphans of between 10 and 15 percent of the continent’s children.

In his keynote address at “AIDS in Africa,” a day-long discussion on Sept. 21 sponsored by the School of Public Health at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life, Schoofs called for a new social contract. “In a sane, compassionate world, drug companies could sell their drugs for a profit in rich countries and at cost in poor countries,” said Schoofs, a 1985 Yale College graduate.

The goals of treatment may have to step back from the norm in developed countries, he said, and be as modest as buying parents five more years of life. “We cannot let the perfect suck the life out of the good,” he said. “There already is a different standard of care in Africa. It’s called no care.”