World Aids Day: I met Enoch. Three years ago he couldn't stand up. Now his life is transformed. The cost? 23p a day

I choose not to listen to the cynics, whose philosophical opposition to aid bewilders me

Share
Related Topics

What value can you put on a human life: £1m, £1bn, priceless? How about 23p a day? That's what it costs to provide a Malawian with HIV with life-saving anti-retroviral drugs. And the really depressing thing is that, for two-thirds of Malawians with HIV, that price is too high. No one is willing to stump up the cash needed to keep them alive.

Think what you can buy for 23p: a Mars bar costs 60p, a pint of milk is 50p. And then realise that 650,000 Malawians with HIV cannot get the medicines they need. If I sound angry about this it's because I am.

I recently returned from Malawi. This is a country poor even by African standards, and one which is ravaged by HIV. One million people – 1 in 12 of the population are living with the virus.

I saw first hand the difference a tiny amount of aid money can make to the lives of people who would otherwise be living with a death sentence.

Enoch, a farmer in his 60s who was diagnosed with HIV 10 years ago, told me: "If you'd seen me three years ago you wouldn't think I was the same person. I was very, sick, I couldn't stand up. I'm alive today because of the medication I receive."

Some people worry that our aid budget is somehow being wasted, that it doesn't reach the people who need it or that aid is somehow counterproductive. Others express concern that we won't be able to spend the increases in aid that our Government has promised for 2013 – the year we will finally meet a 40 year-old promise to the world's poorest to spend 0.7p of every £1 of the UK's national income on aid.

I choose not to listen to the armchair cynics, whose philosophical opposition to aid bewilders me. I choose to listen to people like Enoch, and Mara Banda – who also told me, quietly and simply, that she would be dead today if it were not for medicines paid for by our aid. We can and should be helping more people like them. World leaders had agreed that by 2010, the world would pay for medicines for everyone with HIV. Yet almost 7 million people – and a shocking three-quarters of children – living with HIV cannot get the treatment they need because of a lack of funding.

Failure of governments and other donors to fund adequately the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria has left that body with a £1bn hole in its budget.

We are in danger of undermining what is a real success story. The Global Fund has been a modern-day miracle, using aid money to get nearly 4 million on to life-saving medicines. Five years ago virtually no one could access these medicines and HIV/Aids was a definite death sentence. But the Global Fund can barely afford to keep funding existing treatments.

In 2011, there were still 1.7 million Aids-related deaths – that's equivalent to the combined populations of Birmingham and Leeds. In some ways, Enoch is lucky he did not fall ill this year, as the Global Fund has no money for new patients.

That progress may be at risk not only because individuals will not get the treatment they need, but also because anti-retrovirals decrease the chances that people with HIV will pass on the virus to others. Over time, today's funding squeeze by donors could end up being very costly.

You often hear the argument that because other countries are failing to deliver on their promises, this should somehow let us off the hook. In fact, in this climate, David Cameron deserves ever more credit for sticking to his guns in the face of an onslaught by critics.

And it is ever more important that he does so. Not only because at a time of dwindling aid budgets, the UK's becomes proportionately more important, but also because as long as the UK keeps its promises, it makes it harder for leaders in other developed countries – like France, Germany or Canada – to explain why they can't deliver on theirs.

But forget the politics; this is a question of basic humanity. When you hear someone explain to you how they've been saved from death by a simple act of charity, then the only healthy human reaction is to want to extend that same charity to others facing the same plight.

Especially when it costs less than a pint of milk.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A picture posted by Lubitz to Facebook in February 2013  

Andreas Lubitz: Knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 enabled mass murder

Simon Calder
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, presides at the reinterment of Richard III yesterday  

Richard III: We Leicester folk have one question: how much did it all cost?

Sean O’Grady
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss