In the late 1980s, life expectancy in Zimbabwe was 63 years. Today it's 33. The reason is HIV, which has infected 35% of its adults and orphaned 900,000 children. As James Morris, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, told the Senate last week after a visit to the southern African country, "It's not uncommon to see ... a grandmother in her 70s, very slight, often looking after 20 or 30 children. And she has nothing."
Worldwide, HIV and AIDS have orphaned 14 million children and infected more than 40 million people. Often governments (like Zimbabwe's) ignore and deny the problem, furthering the spread of the disease.
Money, huge amounts of it, is necessary to tackle the crisis. But so are broad, cost-efficient networks for prevention and treatment. Among the most effective is the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a public-private multinational organization that works with the World Health Organization. Created three years ago by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Global Fund has infectious-disease specialists working in 100 countries.
The United States, by default, is a major supplier of anti-AIDS funding worldwide, and President Bush has pledged $15 billion over five years. However, he also proposes spending the lion's share on bilateral programs set up by a U.S.-controlled organization, the Millennium Challenge Account, that grants aid only to nations meeting various economic, social and political ideals.