Amid ignorance, politics and the high cost of AIDS drugs, help is in short supply. The US Peace Corps said today it would give AIDS prevention training to its 2,400 volunteers in Africa. Others are helping any way--and from anywhere--they can.
Reverend Eugene Rivers is a force of unity, bringing together police, church and community leaders in a crusade against Boston's violent street gangs.
But this is a pastor on another crusade, against a different enemy on a different continent--fighting AIDS in Africa.
"This is the Holocaust for the black world," Rivers says.
Almost 14 million Africans have died of the disease and by next year, an estimated 13 million children will be orphaned by AIDS. In Africa, the virus is spread primarily by heterosexual sex, and Rivers has a controversial view on "Sexual promiscuity now functions as a weapon of mass destruction in African society," Rivers says. "The most difficult thing for black leadership in this country and abroad to talk about is the issue of behavior."
But Rivers talks about it in South Africa on a TV talk show, and back home in the United States.
"Black leadership and African leadership should be promoting, especially when we're talking about AIDS: abstinence, monogamy and contraception," Rivers says.
But that's easier said than done. The biggest concern is how to fund the education and treatment systems needed--especially since the African nations where AIDS is prevalent are among the poorest in the world.
In January, Vice President Al Gore announced an additional $100 million in the US commitment to fighting AIDS overseas, bringing the total to $325 million annually.
"They're crumbs and everybody knows it. We know that Colombia, one country got $1.7 billion to fight a drug war they're never going to win," Rivers says.
Reverend Rivers will continue to clamor for more aid and more involvement by African-American leaders, pushing to enlist volunteers in the war against the disease that's decimating an entire continent.
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