The United Nations special envoy on HIV/AIDS on Wednesday warned that a U.S.-led war against Iraq would have dire consequences on global AIDS efforts, particularly those benefiting the roughly 30 million Africans with the disease, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Wars divert attention; wars consume resources; wars ride roughshod over external calamities," said U.N. envoy Stephen Lewis. "People with HIV/AIDS are in a race against time. What they never imagined was that, over and above the virus itself, there would be a new adversary, and that adversary would be war."
Lewis pointed out that in Afghanistan, humanitarian efforts dried up once the United States and its allies mounted attacks on Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in the country, and those efforts have not yet restarted. "I think exactly the same is almost certain to happen if we have a war in Iraq," he said. "The war in Iraq will be even more consuming because the world is more divided. Fighting AIDS in Africa will receive dreadfully short shrift."
Lewis said the ripple effects of the war would come at a crucial juncture in the fight against AIDS in Africa because new international funding will be needed soon for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which needs about $7 billion for programs in 2003 and 2004.