Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cynically Jargoning AIDS

Life is fairly quiet in my corner of the AIDS world. All the big guys have been parking off in Rwanda (Kigali) discussing… actually, who knows what. Hopefully something incredibly relevant this time. Rather than just the usual banter about:
“We must help the children! Yes yes, this epidemic is affecting the c.h.i.l.d.r.e.n.”,
“Stigma is the problem”,
“Drug addicts are becoming infected through sharing needles”[ed. …really? Wow. Groundbreaking news that!]
“Look, UNICEF would like to raise the concern of what is happening to the children”,
“Women are not empowered, even with the female condom!”

To that last point… Well, that’s cause too many women believe that pomping with the female condom is like getting kinky with a Checkers packet. I cannot speak on how true such an idea actually is, as I have yet to get a mate to test it out for me. Not that I am not completely happy to be the guinea pig myself. I just require a happy co-testee. [Any hot rich single straight takers? Hey?]

The meeting, which ended yesterday, addressed “on-the-ground implementation of HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care programmes—to share best practice and disseminate lessons learned on what works well and where improvement is needed”. (In The Lancet: HIV implementers have a unique opportunity in Kigali (Editorial) ]

You might need to read that sentence at least once more. Just to make sense of the terms of jargon used. Basically, they’re doing a bit of stocktaking.

And who is “They”?? They are all the big guys in the fight against AIDS. The guys with the money. The sorts of main manne that us little people feel privileged to charm and shmmooze, who some of us are almost willing to prostitute our hotter female colleagues off to, should we be able to. PEPFAR (American money loaded with controversy), UNAIDS, UNICEF, WHO (World Health Organisation), the Global Fund (to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria), the World Bank, and the Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS.

Wow. I bet the meals were awesome! And the top hotels were packed. And maybe the odd bed in some of those hotels was never slept in. While others were slept in by too many occupants than was originally intended.

But surely such an event was not just about the “Apres Talking”? I doubt we will ever know.

If they did deal with what they were meant to, and deal with it to more than the superficial level that over 2 000 participants more than likely allowed, then GOOD! Great!

The problem is that Africa is being flooded with cash for AIDS. If ever you were a dishonest NGO boss, AIDS would be the field to get your workers into. You’ll be rolling in the fancy hotels, 4x4s and lofty per diems for years to come.

What too much money also means that fighting efforts are being poorly coordinated and/or duplicated. Wasted cash. Transaction costs are too high at the moment (those NGO bosses again). Government guys are not necessrily accepting plans that are simply being super-imposed onto their states - "ownership" issues. And there is a “lack of alignment with country systems”.... the consultants create plans and ideas and budgets that have no relevance whatsoever with the country they are actually working for that week. While neighbours are not making their systems match in any way, whatsoever.

Basically cash is being wasted to an extent that would make the soft-hearted weep.

The meeting is hoping to get all consultants, governments, organisations and donors “on the same page”. To “improve harmonisation” and to “make the money work”, especially for “people on the ground" . OH! And let’s not leave out the main term on the agenda these days, we must “ensure accountability”.

“Only through joint efforts from all sectors and at all levels will the move towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support be achieved. The opportunities to learn from each other in Kigali are enormous and should not be wasted”

I could’ve sworn that I have read or heard that last paragraph somewhere before. Some year back. Some meeting placed elsewhere in the world.

Great to see that the actual virus was mentioned so often though.

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