Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
I am increasingly perturbed by the developing news that Eskom has withdrawn its R15 million funding of the South African Aids Vaccine Initiative (Saavi), which is aimed at boosting the elusive search for an HIV-Aids vaccine programme.
Our sister publication Sunday Times reports that Saavi informed "a dozen top researchers that funding had stopped".
It would be quite interesting, notwithstanding the dismay and disapproval and the expected condemnation from all quarters of such an inexplicable and destructive decision, to learn from the powers that be at the parastatal what led to such a drastic decision.
I want to find out, and I am certain the same goes for millions of other South Africans, both the infected and affected, what circumstances and reasoning ended up with such a decisive measure.
In my humble mind there is absolutely no shadow of a doubt about how critical these vaccine programmes are towards shaping the future of all of humanity at this crucial juncture in the deadly history of a world that is afflicted with this incurable disease.
This is precisely the most important consideration that really concerns me with regard to the withdrawal of much-needed funding.
Secondly, I think the Department of Health, whose funding accounts for far less than that contributed by Eskom and other stakeholders, has to come to the party.
For instance, one believes that this crisis can be averted as a matter of urgency because year in and year out a number of governmental departments, including the Department of Health, grossly underspend.
It would be a travesty of justice, a crime against humanity, if such crucial scientific research is abandoned solely for financial reasons.
There have been numerous instances in which the government has let us down as we intensify the struggle for life against this parasitic virus.
I sincerely hope that this will not be another instance when foresight and commitment is found wanting.
Having said that, I also believe that a clarion call needs to be sounded to all other members of the corporate world to rescue this sinking ship.
As a matter of fact, I find it scandalous, in the first place, that a stinkingly rich country such as ours can be caught up in a situation where funding for a noble cause, one which holds massive historical margins, can be in such a desperate corner.
I strongly believe that as a country we have our priorities all messed up if we are unable to treat and eventually find a permanent cure for this largely sexually transmitted disease.
There is no doubt, even to an infected layman like me, that a successful Aids vaccine is the only ray of light as we tirelessly and selflessly strive to secure an Aids-free world for all our children.
I must remain hopeful, though, that a practical solution will be found to resolve this deadlock.