Foreign Policy Blogs

A Radical AIDS Plan?

Over at The New Republic John Talbott has a rather radical suggestion for how to end AIDS in Africa: “Compulsory testing and notification of every citizen.” Talbott is not a medical doctor nor is he an Africanist — his tagline lists him as “an author, former investman banker for Goldman Sachs, and former visiting scholar at UCLA's Anderson School in Los Angeles,” and his solution seems a bit simplistic and pie in the sky. The example he uses is Botswana, where there is a strong civil society and fairly wide access to antiretroviral drugs. he surmises that once people know they are infected, they will know to get service, which in Botswana might be more readily available than elsewhere.

His solution is an provocative one on the theoretical level, though it does not take an especially fertile imagination to understand why compulsory medical exams, whether imposed from white outsiders or African leaders, might be construed as more than a little bit problematic. And what if, after diagnosing someone, the state does not follow up with a guarantee of treatment? Be sure to look at the discussion comments, in which an infectious disease doctor who is about to head to Namibia to deal with AIDS patients addresses Talbott's article, calling his solution “interesting if half-baked.”