Emma Thompson: Do not forget that Aids has a human face

From a speech in London given by the actress at the launch of Action Aid's campaign for the Global Fund against Aids, Malaria and Tuberculosis
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The Independent Online

If you want to know what Aids is like in Africa, imagine that you're the centre of a web of people and then mentally kill off a sibling, a child, a parent, your favourite teacher, the green grocer, the local policeman.

I'm appalled by the fact that we found so much money for conflict but we cannot respond to Aids, a far greater threat to the human race. I find it extraordinary to hear it reported that 200 people have been infected with Sars when we know 2,000 babies are born with HIV every day. One cannot help jumping to the conclusion that this is because most of those babies are born to parents who earn less than a dollar a day. There is a sort of psychotic detachment on the part of Western governments as to what is happening in Africa. I think our generation and our governments will be harshly judged by history.

I've met a remarkable Ugandan woman, Florence Kumunhyu, who lost a husband to Aids before her three co-wives died in the early Nineties. Everyone in the village pointed the finger at her saying, "Death follows that one around." Florence got some training from Action Aid and started her own community-based organisation. Twelve years later she is the leader.

There is a huge knowledge gap among officials of bodies such as the World Bank and the IMF about the human face of the Aids problem. The British public think people lie around dying, unable to help themselves. But Uganda is heaving with the kind of grass-roots activism that Florence is undertaking. These are the people we have to get behind.