Lewis urges public to fight disparities
Lana Haight, Saskatoon Star Phoenix April 4, 2007
him an idealist or a romantic, but Stephen Lewis says
he just can’t get over the disparities in the
“What has happened to the moral anchor of the world?” asked
the internationally recognized diplomat and former United
Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.
to more than 1,500 students, faculty and guests at the
University of Saskatchewan on Tuesday in recognition
of the university’s 100th birthday, Lewis pointed
out that disparities exist in Saskatoon, as well.
“Low-income neighbourhoods were much more likely
to suffer from a wide range of diseases and disorders in
comparison to middle- and high-income neighbourhoods,” Lewis
read from a Saskatoon Health Region report on health disparities
based on income.
At least there is hope in Saskatchewan, where people understand
the importance of community intervention in solving such
disparities, Lewis said.
the university’s college of nursing
and the RBC Foundation, which has donated $750,000 to the
college, for trying to make a difference by getting involved
in community development projects at home and abroad. But
he didn’t have kind words for the broader international
“What is it about Africa? Why are these people dispensable?” he
Lewis expressed frustration with the lack of action on
the part of the United Nations in the Darfur region of
Sudan, where at least 200,000 people have been murdered
after being brutalized and raped, while millions more have
been displaced from their homes.
four years we have watched what everyone acknowledges
is a genocide in Darfur and the entire world has yet to
rally to the salvation of those people.”
Lewis also painted a dismal picture of HIV/AIDS ravaging
African families. He told stories of young children, in
many cases infected themselves, being raised by their grandmothers.
Worldwide, 40 million people are dying from HIV/AIDS.
As many as three million children are infected with the
deadly virus contracted most often from their mothers during
birth. If not treated, 50 per cent of these children will
die before they are two years old. By age eight, only 20
percent will still be living. And the treatment, commonly
available in the western world, is not complicated. A tablet
of the drug nevirapine given to the mother while in labour
and a liquid dose given to the infant within 72 hours of
being born reduces the transmission by 50 per cent, Lewis
have carnage among children that is completely unnecessary.”
Tuesday’s public lecture was organized by the college
of nursing. Lewis was an obvious choice as speaker to launch
the college’s RBC Community Development Program,
said acting dean Joan Sawatzky.
“He has a talent for confronting the audiences to
whom he speaks with the harsh realities of communities
whether it’s local or international. He’s got
the credibility to speak with passion to the needs that
are out there. At the same time, he can communicate that
hope and challenge everybody to say, “What can I
do about this?”
that’s a question the nursing faculty are asking
themselves as they determine the kinds of development work
they can do with the RBC grant to improve the lives of
people living in Saskatoon, in the province and even around
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