Leadership on International AIDS Funding Needed in United States, Africa, Opinion Pieces Say
Although Jesse Helms' (R-N.C.) effort to boost U.S. spending on global AIDS programs is to be commended, his opposition to family planning funding for foreign countries "will render the increased AIDS funding practically useless" because it lessens the chance that women have access to condoms and reproductive care, Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker writes in a Journal-Constitution column. As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1995 to 2001, Helms is "responsible for keeping U.S. foreign aid to despicably low levels," Tucker writes, adding that President Bush recently decided to withhold $34 million in funding for the U.N. Population Fund over concerns that the funding was being used for forced abortions and sterilizations in China. The lack of funding for international family planning programs "guarantee[s] that desperately poor women will be denied access to condoms, and, as a result, many will become infected with [HIV]." She notes, "Even with increased funds for AIDS treatment, there will not be enough money to provide [antiretroviral drugs] to all of those mothers and babies" unless family planning funding is allocated. "If Helms is sincere about repairing some of the damage he has done, he ought to take another look at the link between good family planning efforts and preventing the spread of [HIV]. Without family planning programs, AIDS prevention is simply impossible," Tucker concludes (Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/15).
'Political Will' Needed in Africa
International spending on AIDS programs in Africa "has barely put a dent in the problem" because a lack of political will on the part of African leaders has not allowed prevention efforts to succeed, a Chicago Sun-Times editorial states. "Fighting poverty and fighting AIDS go hand in hand," but funding for AIDS programs in Africa will not be effective as long as "African nations continue to show more interest in fighting each other than their common enemy on the medical front," the editorial says. The editorial states that African nations have used AIDS funds "for military purposes" and that some African countries are still "clinging to the belief that AIDS is a myth invented by the West." The editorial notes that no African leaders attended an AIDS conference in Zambia in 1999 and that South African President Thabo Mbeki has questioned the causal link between HIV and AIDS. "However large a percentage of [AIDS program funding] Africa will command, dollars and cents alone won't be enough to score any serious victories. An infusion of political will is every bit as crucial as an infusion of medicine," the editorial concludes (Chicago Sun-Times, 5/15).