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Commentary

The Real Cost of AIDS in Sierra Leone
Roger Bate, Economic Affairs, 3-21-06

Bate points out that funding for AIDS programs in Sierra Leone has displaced other critical health initiatives that are, arguably, much more cost-effective ways of saving lives.

There are few things more distressing than aid intended to help the poorest actually causing them harm. It is a sad irony that aid for HIV care is actually displacing far more valuable child immunisation work in the wretched West African country of Sierra Leone. Rather than adding to capacity, the few competent staff are simply drawn away from these basic but vital services towards the high-profile, higher-paying HIV programme. An integrated approach to aid-giving must occur or more will die needlessly from good intentions.

It is one of the longstanding ironies of international aid that it is often driven by Western perceptions and priorities rather than the actual facts on the ground. Policymakers and donors must evaluate the cost-effectiveness of their programs vis-ŗ-vis other potential health and social investments to ensure that they arenít robbing Peter to pay Paul.



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