Kenyans protest global fund withdrawal

Last week, I wrote about the severe funding shortfalls that are jeopardizing the solvency of the Global fund for HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria. Shortly after my post, I read that Bill Gates ponied up $750 million. He and I must have been on the same wave length. Moreover, I was just finishing the Steve Jobs biography — which was fascinating, and a great read — but boy does Jobs have a lot of vitriole for Gates. Ok, I digress.

The point I wanted to make is that Kenyans have been protesting the prospects of the global fund spigot going dry as thousands rely on that funding to support their AIDS treatment. It’s not clear from the news stories how large the protests have been. But one of the things that has fascinated me about the history of the African AIDS pandemic is how little activism there was on the ground in the years before widespread funding of treatment and other programs.

Now that such treatment has been provided, if it gets taken away, there will almost certainly be quite a bit of resentment and people will protest on a wider scale. My first instinct was to suggest that this is an exemplar of the power of loss aversion. But the truth is, the value of AIDS treatment was probably largely incomprehensible in the abstract, and it’s only after years of experience that citizens have come to understand how this medical technology can be life-saving. The global fund deserves a solid share of the credit for making this possible.