I was going to jump into the fray of the debate between Demosthenes and Steven Den Beste, but then Jane Galt beat me to the punch with a great reply. (And the blogosphere tradition of link-dropping continues…)
The fact is, even if we could get antiviral drugs to Africa, it wouldn’t do a damn thing to slow the epidemic. Chances are, it would make it worse. The cost wouldn’t just be in dollars and resources, but in lives, as many would die from complications from the drugs, overdoses, and poor health monitoring. Anti-AIDS drugs aren’t worth anything unless properly administered, and there isn’t enough infrastructure in Africa to ensure that happening.
Another worry is that the transmission and mutation rates of AIDS in Africa would lead to a resistant strain of the disease. If it escaped, the last ten years of research would be wiped out in a heartbeat, and we’d be left at square one once again. The fact is, Den Beste’s triage metaphor is an accurate one. At this point, we can only hope that the readily available educational programs start to take hold, or the AIDS epidemic will leave Africa as ravaged as Europe after the Black Death, if not more so.