Cape Town, Aids Introduction

Thursday, 19 July 2007; Cape Town

I have been in Cape Town since Monday night. The Kaiser Family Foundation kindly provided me a break from a grueling task of field work in Zambia for a refresher in HIV and Aids reporting. It was nice to meet my two work mates in Malawi, Frank Kapesa and Gladys Gandali from Television Malawi. Other country men Aubrey Mchulu of the Nation and Frank Kandu, of MBC again (Wow three MBC guys in a single event) were part of the main event. I also had a chance to meet one of Malawi's leading mental health Professor's Dr. Chiwoza Bandawe who was kind enough to visit us at our Hotel. He is based at the University of Cape Town. National Director of NAMISA Innocent Chitosi was also around so too Multi Choice Malawi MD Eddie Smith. The first two were among the entrants to the CNN/Multichoice African Journalist of the Year Awards. The Aids programme is also comprised of Journalists from South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Algeria, Congo DR, Mozambique and Swaziland. The passion to cover Health and Aids specifically is evident among the African Journalists and more importantly the need to find solutions. Every Journalist that I have spoken to in the programme has a story to tell. The challenges are similar, our Governments hide information, nobody wants to own projects that have failed, there are more than many glaring holes in terms of how money meant of the poor is used. Health is not a priority both in our newsrooms and in our country’s national systems. I am not sure which country has so far met the Abuja target of 15-percent of national budget that should go into health. They make promises and nobody seems he wants to own them. It is easy to see why we have many challenges on our continent. If it was a pessimist point of view, in Africa nothing seems to be working at the moment. There is reported reduction in prevalence, but mainly it might be coming from mortality. Useless debates continue to range on what poverty can do or not do. Most institutions working in the field of Aids rarely do their priorities include empowering the people living with Aids? In Lusaka, whose stories I will tell when I complete my programme, I witnessed a prolonged Health workers strike. A mother gave birth on the hospital corridor; another family was forced to keep a dead child’s body at home for three days while nurses refused to give keys to morgue. The Zambian Government’s response to their concerns is another story for another day.
Lets go back to Cape Town, I was in South Africa this week which is an exciting week in their national calendar. It coincides with July 18, Nelson Mandela’s birthday.
The Birthday is another event, Mandela joined by other icons including Jimmy Carter were in Johannesburg but the fun included the World Football Team-a collection of stars versus Mandela 11. It is an honour that reputable football stars from George Weah to Pele come to Cape Town to play a game in honour of one of the very few living legends. Nelson Mandela is in his own class and his story is well told. The only problem that I always have with him, is that he was in jail too long that he left Africans with bad leadership examples. If we had ten Mandela’s in Africa, I don’t believe we would have had dictators who cling to the positions by hook or crook killing, maiming, jailing and even sometimes blaming others for the problems created by themselves.
I have covered politicians too much, that my change to Health might have come out of fatigue, it was becoming monotonous. In covering some stories or speeches by politicians words like commitment or when funds are available they sound like a political commercial.
Nelson Mandela lived a great part of his life in prison. He came out he never hated nor sought revenge. Some people have ruled and ruined their countries and still wants to claim honour and legitimacy.
I will put my opinion to the political comedy on African Union with Brother Leader Muammar Ghadafi the guy who has never been elected by the people of Libya wanting to becoming my President in the USA of Africa, much later.
But my trip to Cape Town was not about politics, it was a celebration time. Celebrating African Journalism, celebrating Madiba’s birthday but most importantly a time that we all could come together to evaluate our contributions as Journalists to mother Africa.
Cape Town is basically a European city in Africa, inequalities are evident in many places but one thing that is equally enjoyed is the beauty of the city.
I really felt grateful to the Kaiser Foundation Media programme for an opportunity of life time.
On Wednesday we started the programme with Aids briefing and more on prevention. In the afternoon we shared experiences and basically the story lines we could all pursue to keep the fire burning.
Amid other priorities and new challenges how does one keep writing of HIV and Aids? Who is tracking the Aids billions?
In Malawi I know the National Aids Commission offers one of the best remuneration packages, some figures too obscene for a country with many people that need drugs and many that live below the poverty line would be shocked by their advocates, spokesperson and champions lifestyle.
It is generally agreed, that Aids has become a multi-billion industry, from drugs, care to prevention and treatment. The benefits are enormous to the players than to the patients.
Every time people travel into another country, they are shown of how much effort is being put into mitigating the problem.
Researchers, research results, dubious and real institutions have all sprout up in the name of Aids. I hope in the next articles, I will extensively look at Aids, Health and related issues that makes Africa remain backward or some success stories that are worth emulation.

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