If you haven't seen the New York Times piece on global AIDS response from this week, you should check it out. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/10/world/africa/10aids.html
It sparked a debate in our office about why the Times wrote the piece now, why it chose to focus on Uganda, and what the overall point was. McNeil gave no voice to a call to action or a description of a plan to deal with the problem.
As a former reporter, I think the timing was likely a result of when the reporter had a chance to finish it and the paper had space to run it. Most reporters have notepads filled with stories they’d like to write and there is no science to when they can actually scratch one off the list.
McNeil is a great guy and an experienced correspondent, having done stints in South Africa and Paris (someone has to do it). Why Uganda? There were earlier reports from clinics there that took a similar tone, and for the same reasons Uganda has so many Mzungus: It’s a relatively easy place to visit and work. People speak English, the weather is nice, and it’s mostly peaceful. Furthermore, the concentration of NGOs, aid programs and universities running programs helps a reporter out.
People tend to imagine there is much more deliberation that goes into what appears in the newspaper, when the reality is it’s often
It’s not McNeil or any reporter’s job to write a “call to action.” That’s the job of the advocates in response, in my humble opinion. I also appreciated that he didn’t quote a bunch of “experts” waxing on about potential solutions. The reality is that right now, there is no long-term plan to maintain funding for HIV treatment, but before PEPFAR and the Global Fund financed treatment expansions, we all knew treatment was for life.
One article can’t be all things but if I were to write a follow-up, I’d want to further exploration of:
• The host country’s responsibility in delivery HIV prevention and treatment.
• The PEPFAR transition ongoing to transfer treatment responsibility to the host countries.
• Are there any new prevention strategies that seem to be working?
Many diseases and public health problems compete for scare resources. The trade-offs between them are real. HIV isn’t the top killer in many of the countries, but it receives by far the most funding. The battle against one disease might be weakening, but maybe that’s the wrong lens to see things through. Maybe we need to measure our progress against trends in the total burden of disease?