Jonathan Brown ’66 has held only one job since graduating from Yale College — working for the World Bank.
Brown, operations adviser for the World Bank’s global HIV/AIDS program, came to a Calhoun College Master’s Tea on Thursday to speak about the disease. HIV/AIDS surfaced in Uganda in 1982 and has since severely hampered developmental progress across Africa, he said.
Before an audience of roughly 40 people, Brown explained the destructive nature of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and the World Bank’s recent efforts to combat it. Using a series of maps, charts, and outlines, Brown made the case that HIV/AIDS is more than a medical problem.
“Mostly it’s a disease of powerlessness,” Brown said.
Brown said the disease has a disproportionate impact on young women because girls in the affected countries often do not have the power to refuse the requests of older men. In addition to gender, Brown cited alcohol and a lack of education as other factors contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Brown’s presentation was twofold — he illuminated the impact of HIV/AIDS on the African continent, as well as its impact on the World Bank. In September 2000, the World Bank launched the Multi-Country HIV/AIDS Program for Africa, or MAP, which seeks to increase access to prevention, care, and treatment programs for citizens.
MAP was an innovative step for the World Bank because it is not a traditional “blueprint” program, Brown said. Rather than proposing quick solutions, MAP plans 12 to 15 years into the future. Brown said that MAP does not have the perfect solution; instead, the program works through a “learn by doing” process. Brown said that while MAP has achieved some of its goals, it has more progress to make.
Brown said that if MAP wishes to gain more World Bank support, the program must acknowledge its own weaknesses and face them as challenges rather than failures. Only by constantly pointing out areas for improvement will supporters of MAP be able to maintain its momentum, he said.
Despite the $1 billion in no-interest lending that MAP has received since its inception two and a half years ago, Brown said this is still not enough. He said that in 2000, roughly $3 billion was needed to battle HIV/AIDS in Africa and in 2005, an estimated $4.5 billion will be necessary. This leaves African nations with the problem of borrowing money to combat the epidemic.
After Brown’s presentation, one student questioned the World Bank’s lending policies.
Brown said the epidemic’s threats supercede financial matters.
“You’re talking about life and death here,” he said. “Getting money to the people who can fight the war is more important than whether it’s a grant or a loan.”