Putting Africa's coffin-makers out of business

These coffin makers in the street markets are idle partly because American spending on programs to fight AIDS around the world means that vast numbers of people are no longer dying at a young age. So coffin makers sit dejectedly beside stacks of lumber, waiting for business.

“Before, a lot of people were dying of AIDS,” said Moeketsi Monamela, a 33-year-old coffin maker here in Maseru, the capital of the mountainous kingdom of Lesotho. A half-dozen years ago, he sometimes crafted 20 coffins a month, he said. Now, he typically sells five or six…

The progress is the result in large part of Pepfar, or the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (which the United States supports). To his great credit, President George W. Bush started Pepfar in 2003; it’s the best thing he did.

With the help of Pepfar and the Global Fund, antiretrovirals, which are powerful AIDS drugs, are now available free in needy countries. AIDS will still kill millions of people, and there are already shortages of medications, but the tide is turning.

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