Examining US Special Envoy For HIV/AIDS In Africa

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Toronto's Globe and Mailon Monday examined how Stephen Lewis, former United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, "made Lesotho a particular focus of his work" during his five-year tenure (Nolen, Globe and Mail, 9/10). According to UNAIDS and the National AIDS Commission, an estimated 29,000 new HIV cases occurred in Lesotho in 2007, bringing the total number of cases to more than 270,000 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/13).

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When Lewis became envoy in 2001, fewer than 3,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country had access to no-cost antiretroviral drugs, theGlobe and Mail reports. The government was "passionately committed to fighting the epidemic but was receiving virtually no international support in those efforts," according to the Globe and Mail.There now are 24,000 HIV-positive people with no-cost antiretroviralaccess, and the government believes the number will exceed 30,000 by the end of this year. Lewis often is credited for making this possibleby "spurring an influx" of funding and by persuading international organizations -- including Medecins Sans Frontiers, the Clinton Foundation, Partners in Health, the Ontario Hospital Association and Columbia University -- to work in Lesotho, the Globe and Mail reports. The Stephen Lewis Foundation also is supporting efforts in all major clinics in the country to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, according to the Globe and Mail.

For his work, King Letsie III on Friday in Maseru, Lesotho, invested Lewisas a Knight Commander of the Most Dignified Order of Moshoeshoe -- the country's highest honor -- the Globe and Mail reports.Lewis after the ceremony said, "They really seem to think I was of help, and that's extraordinarily touching," adding, "But God, you justhope it's enough to save the place, and you just don't know" (Globe and Mail, 9/10).

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