Keeping Things in Perspective - Campaign Spending vs. Saving Lives
A week in Zimbabwe spent working at several clinics that serve HIV/AIDS patients was enlightening and thought provoking.Admittedly, it was distressing to see how rampant, even now, HIV is in some of the poorest parts of Africa; it’s not an exaggeration to say that in some Zimbabwean villages a large majority of the people are HIV-positive.On the other hand, advances made in the treatment of the disease are truly astounding. A once-a-day pill, taken faithfully, can restore patients to a full and meaningful life. Pregnant women who are HIV-positive are giving birth daily to HIV-negative infants. HIV is no longer a death sentence.Arriving at an outreach clinic 65 miles from Victoria Falls, we (volunteers and medical professionals) were greeted by a throng of nearly three hundred residents, some of whom had walked as far as five miles from their own villages in unforgiving heat. Most were HIV-positive, yet nearly all of them looked healthy and well-nourished, despite the fact that they live from hand to mouth as subsistence farmers in an area that has been plagued with drought.
Patients, ranging in age from three to seventy-five, came to the clinic with their medical records book, and they stood patiently in line to have blood drawn and tested. There was no shoving or pushing; infants and children tagged along with their parents. The fact that most of the children did not need to be tested was a tribute to their mothers for taking their daily dosage of life-saving medication during their pregnancy. It was also evidence of the significant progress among the population in understanding the importance of adhering to the daily therapy prescribed to contain the wracking harm of HIV infection.
At the end of a work schedule that began at seven o’clock in the morning and concluded just before midnight, fatigue and deep satisfaction meant that sleep came fast.
After a few days, it dawned on me that I had been blissfully oblivious to the shenanigans roiling the political silly season back home in the U.S. I didn’t know and I didn’t care about which presidential candidate had inched ahead by a nano-percent in the polls.
I reveled in not feeling hostage to the tedious drone of pundits, from left and right, whose chief raison d’être seems to be analyzing the latest slip of the tongue by an addled candidate as a pivotal event worth exhaustive and exhausting chatter.
In the balance of life’s realities, what was consequential came into sharp relief. The HIV initiatives in Zimbabwe are vital to the survival of many members of the human family and being part of that worthy project, though only for a week, brought a sense of balance that even the most compelling punditry cannot provide.
The eye opening truth was the realization that nearly all the funds required to provide medications to the patients at the clinics in Zimbabwe are coming from private donations, while back home more than $1 billion is being raised in the pursuit of a single job, the presidency of the United States. What an irony that the costly pursuit of that office, viewed from the perspective of an HIV clinic, seems suddenly so inconsequential.
Think of the societal good that might be wrought if only a small portion of that money were spent to better the lives of the poorest and most needy around the world.