NEW YORK – At Uganda’s largest AIDS clinic, I recently witnessed a remarkable celebration of life. The performers were a troupe of young African singers, drummers and dancers, ranging in age from roughly eight to 28. Rarely have I been so profoundly moved.
“This is a land,” they sang,
“Where beautiful people
Laugh and dance in harmony.
Africa. O Africa.”
And, indeed, these young people laughed and danced not only in harmony but with a joie de vivre that lit up their faces and filled us all with happiness. Listening, it was hard to imagine that they could easily be dead – and would be, if not for this clinic.
Each of those splendid performers is living with HIV. Some arrived at the clinic so ill that they could scarcely walk. Others showed few symptoms but, having tested positive, came to be treated. They were mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, children and grandparents. All were alive and healthy for one reason only: the Joint Clinical Research Center in Kampala, and the drugs that it provides them.
Uganda was the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. There the scourge began in earnest; there (as elsewhere in Africa) it exacts its highest toll. Yet Uganda is also a success story. A decade ago, fewer than 10,000 people were taking the new generation of antiretroviral drugs that suppress the disease and offer the promise of a normal life. Today, that figure is 200,000, thanks in large measure to generous support from the United States (under its PEPFAR program) and the Global Fund in Geneva.[...]
A version of this article first appeared on Project Syndicate.