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Blunderov
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RE: virus: Postcard From Pretoria
« on: 2005-12-05 13:05:09 »
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[Blunderov] Meanwhile not all is hunky dory in my part of the world either.
Mbeki's espousal of HIV quackery has diminished an otherwise (IMO) quite
statesmanlike performance as president. Most unfortunate. And, sad to say,
the minister of health, Dr Manto Tshabalala Msimang, appears to have no more
medical acumen than a back street sangoma. (Traditional healer aka
witchdoctor.)

At first it was thought that the horrific increase in infections was due the
failure of public awareness campaigns but this turned out not to be so.
Everybody is perfectly well aware of the risks but they just go ahead
anyway.

To add to the woe, the incidence of rape is increasing from already
completely unacceptable levels to what might almost be regarded as open
sexual warfare. This also in spite of many public awareness and
conscientisation campaigns.

What to do? I'm stumped for any solutions I must confess.

Best regards. 

http://feeds.feedburner.com/tpmcafe-americaabroad?m=155

Feed: TPMCafe - America Abroad
Title: Postcard From Pretoria 
Author: Anne-Marie Slaughter

One of my former students, Katy Glenn, is working in South Africa and sent
me the following post on the ongoing AIDS pandemic: There is much talk here
about HIV/AIDS, especially after the release of a major study on the
epidemic like the update just published by UNAIDS. ¬ The discussion
generally focuses on whether AIDS prevention campaigns are working, how to
make anti-retroviral drugs accessible to more people, and why Thabo Mbeki's
government continues to take such a perplexing, and often infuriating,
approach to combating the disease's spread throughout South Africa's
population. ¬ There is less attention paid, however, to what HIV/AIDS means
in terms of the continent's security. ¬  Africa's AIDS crisis has dealt a
severe blow to its militaries. ¬ UNAIDS estimates that the HIV prevalence
rate in African militaries is two to five times the rate among the
comparable civilian population in times of peace, and far higher during an
ongoing conflict. ¬  This is a chilling statistic under any circumstances,
but especially when the stunningly high rates of HIV/AIDS prevalence in
Africa are taken into account. ¬ In sub-Saharan Africa, the HIV prevalence
rate among adults aged 15-49 is 7.2%. ¬ In Southern Africa specifically, the
numbers are higher still: ¬ 21% in Zimbabwe and a devastating 29.5% in South
Africa. ¬  Studies have shown that the armed forces in Angola, Cameroon,
Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda have much higher rates of infection than
the general population. ¬  AIDS is the leading cause of death among members
of Africa's armed forces--outstripping both combat and malaria. Consider the
case of South Africa, which receives 8% of the total foreign aid given to
fight HIV/AIDS, and has partnered with the United States to study ways to
manage AIDS within the military. ¬  Even here, the HIV prevalence rate among
the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) is estimated by the
minister of defense to be around 23%, and seven out of every ten deaths in
the military are AIDS-related. ¬  Despite its relative wealth and the
substantial amount of aid it receives to fight HIV, South Africa cannot
afford to put all HIV-positive soldiers on anti-retroviral drugs. ¬  The
health of the South African military has repercussions for all of Africa,
given South Africa's involvement in peacekeeping operations across the
continent. The problem is not just one of the numbers AIDS kills within the
military, but whom it kills. ¬ When high-ranking officers are claimed by the
disease, years of experience and investment are lost, and the military is
faced with a dearth of qualified soldiers to take leadership positions. ¬
Weakened, depleted African military forces translate into trouble on three
fronts:  First, an increased likelihood of attempted coups d'état against
governments perceived to be too weak to defend themselves; second, more
protracted civil wars between rebel forces and state troops (a corollary to
this problem is an increase in recruitment of child soldiers); third, an
inability to, as the popular phrase puts it, find "African solutions to
African problems," which most often means sending African troops to handle
continental conflicts. ¬ The US and the EU have enthusiastically embraced
the idea of supporting African peacekeeping forces and thus keeping their
own soldiers out of Africa, but if HIV prevalence rates among the
continent's armed forces do not decrease, we will before long reach a point
where there just aren't enough African soldiers.


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the.bricoleur
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RE: virus: Postcard From Pretoria
« Reply #1 on: 2005-12-05 14:30:05 »
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Not that I can substantiate it, but I was told that the 'inner circle' considers AIDS a worthwhile solution to poverty in your country (my former country).

iolo
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Blunderov
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RE: virus: Postcard from Pretoria
« Reply #2 on: 2005-12-05 16:34:07 »
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Title: RE: virus: Postcard From Pretoria  Author: michael@videosonics.com
(Iolo Morganwg)
Not that I can substantiate it, but I was told that the 'inner circle'
considers AIDS a worthwhile solution to poverty in your country (my former
country).

[Blunderov] This was the only way that I could see to make sense of it. The
message "Sorry guys, but we've decided to spend our money on the living
rather than the quite soon to be dead" is not really going to go down all
that well with the electorate.

It seems a reasonable theory given all the fudging and dragging of feet that
has been taking place. It has taken concerted and protracted Supreme Court
action by various activist groups to force an deeply reluctant government to
provide anti retro-virals in hospitals. A lot of lip service is paid of
course, but the minister of health continues to proselytize a diet of
African spinach and olive oil as the "African solution".

Now here is a ripsnorter of a moral poser; should all HIV+ persons receive
maximum care at the expense of the state with the objective of extending
their lives as much as possible, even if this means seriously limiting the
prospects of several future generations due to lack of economic growth? Or
should the cheapest possible palliative care be afforded to the victims in
order to ensure a minimum of poverty for the survivors?

At first sight, the rational option is option 2. It is not a comfortable
conclusion to me. Even my usual "first do no harm" bailout doesn't really
work very well. Looked at completely coldly, one might conclude that the
victims have harmed themselves, and it is they that must take the brunt of
responsibility for it.

Is it just a question of economics though? Or ought one to be reasonably
certain that the whole economy would actually collapse before the choice
could ethically be taken to abandon the sick, or would it be immoral to do
so if there was a reasonable chance that the society would survive in
however much of an economically marginalised state?

I'm finding this to be a tough call. Thoughts anyone?

Best Regards.


 




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RE: virus: Postcard From Pretoria
« Reply #3 on: 2005-12-05 18:04:45 »
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In the mid nineties as HIV passed the 25% level, I did the projections and stats for this issue and pointed out that there was no way that SA could dispose of the sheer number of corpses per day that would be happening about now. Tokyo Sexswale was highly amused, and faculty at Wits totally horrified by my suggestion that possibly, at last, SA could find something useful to do with the white elephant coal-to-oil plants, SASOL I and II. After all, I argued, after the water and heavy metals are separated from a body, the rest makes a fine fertilizer and should be exported for scarce foreign exchange rather than being wasted. In this way, the prevalence of AIDS and community traits which distributed it, could be turned to assisting the RDP! Perhaps it is time to reopen this possibility.

More seriously, the trouble is less those dying of Aids (or the resources taken by them, as SA simply cannot afford retrovirals for the population at large unless they are produced effectively royalty free), but the impact of AIDS orphans under the existing system. On the other hand, if the resulting non-infected AIDS orphans and possibly orphans-to-be were placed with white step-parents (possibly sweetening natural generosity with incentives such as tax subsidies or direct payments), there is a strong chance that enough of the black population could be sufficiently educated to break the "cycle of poverty" in the next generation. But I'm not particularly hopeful that this is likely to happen. It is far too sensible - and "un-African" - an approach to be politically acceptable...

Regards
Hermit
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With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999
Blunderov
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RE: virus: Postcard From Pretoria
« Reply #4 on: 2005-12-06 03:52:12 »
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There are queues at the cemeteries over the weekends. And there are so many funerals that funeral convoys (does this happen in other countries?) have become a very real motoring hazard. Sometimes the caravans are escorted by traffic police but usually, because there are simply too many to cope with, they are not. This causes many accidents because the convoys traditionally never stop at intersections even if the lights are red.

I do believe that there have even been some actual fatalities as a result of them. How absurd to be killed by a speeding funeral procession! Quite Simpsonesque.

Hermit, I had not realised that SASOL was a white elephant? Do you have time to elaborate? The line we have been getting is that synfuel is both cheaper and cleaner burning than oil fuel.

Now that you have aroused my suspicions I can see that the cleaner burning claim might need further examination; it seems possible that the pollution may have already been produced at the plant before the fuel is passed on down the line.

Isn't it cheaper though?

From a strategic point of view too, does it not provide SA, which has no oil of it's own, with at least some degree of independence?

I'm reasonably certain that Robert Mugabe would sell his soul, if he has one - something seriously open to doubt, for a synfuel plant. Zimbabwe has a lot of coal and absolutely no oil. It has furthermore, very little money with which to buy any oil and is at the moment apparently living on handouts from mysterious donors. It would take billions to establish a synfuel plant though. There is almost no infrastructure and the mines would have to be stablished from scratch or so I'm told.

Robert Mugabe visited China recently. China has billions. China is also, by all accounts, quite astute at risk management. And China is, as we speak, doing everything it can to ensure that it will have enough energy for its projected future needs. This might be a space worth watching.

Best Regards





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RE: virus: Postcard From Pretoria
« Reply #5 on: 2005-12-06 08:01:49 »
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I think that I may just have dated myself . The words, "White Elephant" were not a consequence of current research or thinking by me, but the way we thought of SASOL in the late eighties and early to mid nineties when they were a part of my RSC headaches. Certainly from the late eighties, even in the Botha cabinet, but more in the de Klerke and Mandela eras, there was bitter disappointment that SASOL had cost as much as it had and benefited us as little as we saw it doing. Indeed, the only benefit we saw from it (and the introduction of alcohol) was that it saved desperately required foreign exchange for other things - but at the cost of making SA fuel some of the most expensive in the world - with a knock-on effect on most everything else. By the mid-nineties, the "White Elephant" tag was not just prevalent but inseparable from SASOL. This probably is why I "auto-linked" the term with the name.

Having said that, that was a time when sweet Brent crude was running under $US 25 a barrel. And SASOL needed about $US 45 bbl to start generating a return. Bear in mind that billions had been sunk into it starting in the 1950s and that vast amounts were pumped into it under Botha primarily on the rationale that we might need to withstand a blockade and fight a two front war, but also because Shell, BP and Mobil were all predicting prices above the $US 60 bbl level, based on the prices around the early 1980s (courtesy of the US/Iran debacle and the Iran/Iraq war). Of course, I don't know what technical, exchange or cost factors are at play now, but a little consideration leads me to think that while SASOL might never generate enough profit from fuel sales to repay the capital sunk into it, it probably is making a handsome profit with the oil price where we thought it "should" be, and you can add to that the very high value of chemical sales and the potential to sell the technology; (which is world beating) to others.

Speaking of technology, while SASOL started with Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch's process, developed for Germany in WWII, by the 1970s their fluid bed steam, oxygen process was way ahead of anything else out there - and still is AFAIK. Certainly the product is clean. That is because the cost of extraction of "impurities" during the distillation and fractionation process is much lower than the cost of obtaining the "impurities" from any other source. The "impurities" just happen to be valuable chemical feedstock which it is not economically viable to extract from oils, but would otherwise need processing from coals and tars at a price similar to that expended by SASOL in refining - but the other extraction routines don't have gasoline as a "waste product". So SASOL effectively gets fuel, gas (which they sell, rather than flaring it off as I discover they do in the US) and valuable chemical feedstock for the cost of extracting any one of them. And as noted, the fuel is squeaky clean. The only downside is that the Chinese already own most of the South African coal (which unlike US and European coal is not radioactive, making it much safer), and given the depth of penetration of the ANC by PRC intelligence, it may be that the Chinese already know all that they need to emulate the SASOL process themselves. Curiously, I suspect that the US may not (I think that the US discounted the degree of "micro-incremental improvement" that development in this field turned out to require). This may again point to a fundamental advantage held by the PRC over the US.

Thank-you for making me rethink what I said, but recognize that this rethinking is also based on ďcogitationĒ rather than ďresearchĒ. Please bear in mind that I don't know what has happened at SASOL since the mid nineties. There may have been major changes I donít know about.

Regards

Hermit
« Last Edit: 2005-12-07 05:29:19 by Hermit » Report to moderator   Logged

With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999
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