To the Editor:

Both Ben Trachtenberg (“African AIDS presents a human rights crisis,” 3/20) and The News’ View (“Yale, Bristol-Myers and AIDS in Africa,” 3/19) fail to realize that “Africa” and “South Africa” are not the same thing. Yale and Bristol-Myers Squibb have agreed to relax the patent on AIDS drug d4T only in South Africa. And while that country has indeed been hit hard by AIDS, so too has the rest of the continent.

There are 24.5 million HIV-positive people in Sub-Saharan Africa; only four million of them are from the country that Yale has decided to help. Before we laud our university for its “generosity,” let’s acknowledge the 20 million African HIV sufferers we have left high and dry.

In South Africa, 20 percent of the population is HIV-positive; in Botswana, 36 percent is. So why has Yale decided to help the former and not the latter? And why hasn’t Doctors Without Borders gone to bat for the three million HIV sufferers in Ethiopia or the 2.7 million in Uganda? Why hasn’t Yale relaxed its patents for them too?

The plain truth is countries such as Botswana, Ethiopia and Uganda lack the legal sophistication and rich white people that make South Africa so powerful internationally.

I won’t be convinced of Yale’s humanitarian motives until I see a policy helping the African continent, rather than one helping only particular African countries that wield legal power. Until that time comes, the nice people at the YDN might want to invest in a map.

Lara Devgan ’01

March 20, 2001