In the long run:

Recently, an alliance dedicated to vaccines for children in poor countries has received two staggering pledges: $750 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and $1.8 billion from Britain. The Gates Foundation’s money will come in over 10 years, and Britain’s over 15. Such long-term thinking is crucial for vaccines because it gives manufacturers a guaranteed market and allows countries to plan. Long-term planning is also essential for AIDS treatment. And the number of people receiving anti-retroviral drugs has nearly doubled throughout the developing world in just six months. But once people start taking AIDS treatment, they cannot stop.

Unfortunately, AIDS patie-nts in Africa must depend for their medicine on countries whose commitment is unsteady. Rich countries set a target of spending 0.7 per cent of their GDP on foreign aid. But the US spends less than one-fourth of that target.

The easiest way to create a long-term stream of money not subject to an annual political fight is for rich countries to cancel the poorest nations’ debts. At a meeting earlier this month, the world’s wealthiest nations agreed in principle to do this. They must finally take this long-overdue step. Sub-Saharan Africa pays $15 billion a year in debt service, which is enough to fight AIDS. It is four times what it spends on health care, and more than it gets in foreign aid. — The New York Times