Exploring Disparities Between Global HIV/AIDS Funding and Recent Tsunami Relief Efforts: An Ethical Analysis
Asrat, Getnet A.
Montaner, Julio S.G.
Developing World Bioethics 2007 April; 7(1): 1-7
Objective: To contrast relief efforts for the 26 December 2004 tsunami with current global HIV/AIDS relief efforts and analyse possible reasons for the disparity. Methods: Literature review and ethical analysis. Results: Just over 273,000 people died in the tsunami, resulting in relief efforts of more than US$10 bn, which is sufficient to achieve the United Nation's long-term recovery plan for South East Asia. In contrast, 14 times more people died from HIV/AIDS in 2004, with UNAIDS predicting a US$8 bn funding gap for HIV/AIDS in developing nations between now and 2007. This disparity raises two important ethical questions. First, what is it that motivates a more empathic response to the victims of the tsunami than to those affected by HIV/AIDS? Second, is there a morally relevant difference between the two tragedies that justifies the difference in the international response? The principle of justice requires that two cases similarly situated be treated similarly. For the difference in the international response to the tsunami and HIV/AIDS to be justified, the tragedies have to be shown to be dissimilar in some relevant respect. Are the tragedies of the tsunami disaster and the HIV/AIDS pandemic sufficiently different, in relevant respects, to justify the difference in scope of the response by the international community? Conclusion: We detected no morally relevant distinction between the tsunami and the HIV/AIDS pandemic that justifies the disparity. Therefore, we must conclude that the international response to HIV/AIDS violates the fundamental principles of justice and fairness.
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