Inviolata Mmbwavi: People who cannot afford food cannot afford treatment

From a speech by the Kenyan Aids campaigner, delivered at last Saturday's Make Poverty History rally in Edinburgh
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The Independent Online

We are all here to send a message to the world about making poverty history. I am here to talk about HIV/Aids, which is both a cause and a result of poverty.

Most people in my country - in Africa - do not die because they are HIV-positive, but because they are poor. Poverty has led to the high infections of HIV in Africa, and the cost of treatment has impoverished families leaving children orphaned and vulnerable, exposing them to further infections. The cycle is vicious. For the war against HIV and Aids to be won, poverty must be history.

I am here to represent approximately 28 million people living with HIV and Aids in Africa. I, too, am HIV-positive. I have been living with the virus for 13 years.

The G8 countries have repeatedly stated that they consider HIV and Aids to be the single most serious threat to the survival of poor countries. But they continue to commit inadequate resources to the fight against this development crisis.

The G8 countries need to provide more money, more quickly, to purchase more drugs. African countries must make sure their health services reach their poorest and most needy in rural and slum areas. It is unacceptable for sick people to walk more than 15km [9.3 miles] to the nearest health clinic.

Too many people have to pay for treatment. G8 countries must work with the international financial institutions and national governments to ensure free health care and treatment for all. (If people cannot afford food, they cannot afford treatment.)

I am very lucky because I am a consenting guinea pig. I have been in a research project for the past 10 years where I get all my health care free. This is why I am alive today and that is why I am here today. Why me alone, and not everyone who needs treatment?

As the G8 deliberate on aid, trade and debt, I want them to keep in mind that many people will die tonight because of poverty and lack of drugs in Africa. These people are not on the bargaining table. Do they deserve to suffer and die?