Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Editorials, Opinion Pieces on President Bush’s International AIDS Proposal
President Bush in his State of the Union address on Jan. 28 proposed spending $15 billion over the next five years to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, a plan which includes $10 billion in new money. Under the plan, new funds averaging an additional $2 billion per year would be phased in gradually to supplement the $1 billion per year the government now spends on AIDS; only $1 billion would go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/29). On Friday, the Global Fund's board elected HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson as chair, and Bush gave a speech further detailing his plan and outlining his proposals for domestic HIV/AIDS spending (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/3). Summarized below are some of the newspaper editorials and opinion pieces that have addressed the proposal since last Friday, each listed in alphabetical order:
Boston Globe: If the AIDS epidemic in Africa "is ever to be curbed, it will be because of the kind of leadership President Bush showed" in announcing his plan for Africa and the Caribbean in his State of the Union address, a Globe editorial states. However, the editorial says that the initiative would be more effective if it earmarked more money for the Global Fund. "The United States was an original contributor to the fund," the Globe states, adding that the fund distributes money to countries worldwide, "not just Africa and the Caribbean, where the Bush plan would direct the money." The editorial concludes, "Earmarking more of the money to the Global Fund should strengthen the administration's case with Congress" (Boston Globe, 2/3).
Charlotte Observer: Congress must "follow the president's lead" in increasing funding for HIV/AIDS not just because it is "the moral and right thing to do" but because HIV/AIDS "presents a threat to U.S. security and world economic health," an Observer editorial says. However, the Bush administration would "do well" to "heed ... health experts" and channel more of the money into the Global Fund because a separate U.S. program is "inefficient and wasteful" and "reinforces an image that the U.S. prefers unilateralism rather than cooperation and partnerships" (Charlotte Observer, 2/5).
Christian Science Monitor: Bush's proposal is "stunning" and should be commended for "not abandoning prevention" and for supporting treatment measures, including low-cost antiretrovirals, a Monitor editorial says. The editorial concludes that Congress should "examine the proposal's proportion of prevention dollars" and "ask why only $1 billion is slated for the Global Fund" because "by largely bypassing it, Washington may be adding to the anti-AIDS bureaucracy and undermining the very fund it worked to start" (Christian Science Monitor, 2/7).
Dallas Morning News: "Admittedly a slow convert" to the HIV/AIDS issue, "Bush clearly gets it now," the Morning News states. "With the United States now committing $1 billion" to the Global Fund and Thompson as chair of the fund, "the U.S. is displaying the kind of leadership that could compel other wealthy nations to ante up as well," the editorial says. The Morning News concludes, "The president's initiative needs to move along quickly. Every day that passes makes the fight against AIDS a more arduous and perilous battle" (Dallas Morning News, 2/3).
Detroit News: "Fighting the scourge of AIDS will take money, time and many approaches," a Detroit News editorial says, adding, "Compassion requires that the money be devoted to programs that work." The editorial cites Uganda's AIDS prevention program, which "stresse[s] abstinence, fidelity and condom use," as an approach that "could have ... long-term benefits" (Detroit News, 2/2).
Economist: Bush should contribute AIDS funds to "boost existing efforts," an Economist editorial says. It is "fair enough" that Bush prefers for the United States to decide how U.S. money is spent, but "not if too many strings are attached," such as a possible reluctance to deal with condoms or to expand access to "copycat AIDS drugs," despite "valid concerns" about drug patents. The fight against AIDS is "not a fight ... that can be shirked" because of its ability to create "failed states ... which could one day harbor terrorists" and because it is killing millions of people who the United States and other nations "ha[ve] the money to save" (Economist, 2/6).
Newark Star-Ledger: "There is no way to make the world secure without stopping HIV and its destabilizing economic and political effects," a Star-Ledger editorial states, adding, "There is no way to stop the pandemic unless the United Staes writes big checks, starting with the $15 billion one the president promised." The editorial states that "[t]here remains a fear that this pledge might go the way of others," such as the president's mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention initiative announced last year that "never materialized." The Star-Ledger concludes, "Our country's place in the world would be mightily diminished if we do not provide every dime of this promised money" (Newark Star-Ledger, 2/2).
New York Times: "The Bush administration's preference for unilateral solutions is likely to lead to a far less efficient use of the money" in his proposal because federal agencis, such as USAID, "are not in a position to administer the funds, and it is counterproductive to build a parallel bureaucracy when" the Global Fund, "an existing organization of proven efficiency" already exists, the Times says. The editorial urges Congress to earmark more of the proposed funding to the Global Fund, "increase the American commitment to fight AIDS even more" and "spend the money now" (New York Times, 2/1).
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The president's proposed international AIDS plan, "a generous -- and unexpected -- commitment to harness U.S. energy and resources to try to deal with a tragic shortfall between the ravages the disease can wreak and the money necessary to deal with the problems it creates," is "an honest, America-at-its-best response to some grim facts," a Post-Gazette editorial states. The editorial concludes, "If members of Congress want to show they have a heart too, they can raise the amount" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/3).
Richmond Times-Dispatch: Bush's proposal was a "universally welcomed" commitment of "real money" that will "help save real lives, and contribute to the elevation of a continent from abject penury," a Times-Dispatch editorial says. His commitment is "smart geopolitics" because it will "burnish America's image" abroad and will appeal to "evangelical Christians," a major political base for the president, for whom AIDS relief has become a "major cause," the editorial states. The Times-Dispatch concludes that "with the fight against terror and the taming of Iraq," Bush's AIDS initiative will "rank ... among the most important legacies of this President" (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/7).
Sacramento Bee: Although some private AIDS organizations "were delighted" by the president's announcement, "not everyone was enthused," the Bee states, noting that one South African official "feared that too much of the money would end up in the hands of American consultants rather than on the front lines." The editorial says that "[t]hose are legitimate concerns," and "arguabl[y]," the amount going to the Global Fund "ought to be greater." The Bee concludes, "[T]he president's commitment is a welcome contribution to a struggle that's still in its infancy, even as the epidemic ravages whole countries" (Sacramento Bee, 2/1).
Wall Street Journal: Although many "professed surprise" at Bush's announcement, his new AIDS initiative is another example of the president's "consisten[t]" commitment to a "compassionate conservative" agenda in foreign aid, a Wall Street Journal editorial says. The initiative is "rightly" based on the Ugandan model of behavior modification emphasizing "abstinence, faithfulness and condoms in that order," the editorial states. The Journal expresses concern at Bush's "apparent endorsement" of the idea that drug prices "and by implication pharmaceutical patents -- have been an obstacle in addressing Africa's epidemic" and says that while the "prospect of affordable treatment is a critical incentive ... so are the patent laws that have been the impetus for creating these drugs." The Journal concludes that while patent concessions will only "make sense" if the United States is "able to leverage ... a firmer line of the patent protections that make these drugs possible in the first place" (Wall Street Journal, 2/7).
Washington Post: Instead of designating "only 10% of the new money to the fund," the United States should "divide the money 50-50" in order to "maintain sufficient control while still giving the multilateral approach a chance," a Post editorial states. "Pledging $10 billion in new spending is enough to show" that the president is "serious," the editorial says, adding, "And just as important is his newfound commitment to treatment, not just prevention." The Post concludes, "It's hard to overestimate the importance of this conversion" (Washington Post, 2/1).
- Maria Cocco, Long Island Newsday: While the president's new AIDS initiative is an "epiphany that amounts to a political turnabout," there are "grounds for skepticism," Newsday columnist Cocco writes. Bush's budget, which Cocco calls a "catastrophe" that prioritizes tax cuts and military spending before bolstering domestic social programs, casts a "harsh light" against which his new AIDS initiative must be viewed. Cocco concludes that while the president's "conversion seems genuine ... his record gives cause for vigilance" (Cocco, Long Island Newsday, 2/4).
- Nicholas Eberstadt, Los Angeles Times: The locus of the AIDS epidemic may be shifting from sub-Saharan Africa to Eurasia, where an HIV "breakout threatens to be more disastrous," Eberstadt, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, writes. "Mild" projections for 2000 to 2025 portend more than 40 million deaths in Russia, India and China alone -- more than twice the number of deaths worldwide from the epidemic up to this point, Eberstadt says. The repercussions of such an outbreak could be "more disastrous" than in sub-Saharan Africa, where the crisis has been mainly humanitarian due to its "marginal" place in the "modern world economy and ... global power balance," he adds. Eberstadt concludes that because Eurasia is a "major and growing center of economic and military power," the Bush administration should "devote more of its anti-AIDS energies into rousing [the governments of Russia, India and China] to embrace HIV strategies of their own" (Eberstadt, Los Angeles Times, 2/2).
- Guy Friddell, Richmond Times-Dispatch: The president merits an "A" for his State of the Union address in which he outlined a "startling proposal" to combat AIDS, columnist Friddell writes. "It was refreshing to see a president of the United States bring before the world the terrible plight of Africa's people," Friddell said, adding that "[o]nly Bush could have assured such mass attention to the problem" (Friddell, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/3).
- John Hughes, Christian Science Monitor: Although the new U.S. commitment of funds "falls far short" of the $10 billion dollars needed annually to combat the disease in Africa, Bush's initiative is "welcome" as a "glimmer of light to a dark problem," John Hughes, editor and CEO of the Salt Lake City Deseret News, writes. The problem "remains immense," but "perhaps others among the world's affluent nations will now do more to tackle a problem that has ramifications far beyond Africa's shores," he concludes (Hughes, Christian Science Monitor, 2/5).
- Michael Kelly, Washington Post: The U.S. response to the "holocaust" of AIDS in Africa has been "scandalous," Post columnist Kelly writes. Bush's "unexpected" and "consequential" announcement has "opened the door" to the possibility of performing "one of the greatest rescues of human life of all time," he says. In order to avoid standing by to "let transpire one of the greatest destructions of human life of all time," support of the president's proposal "must become deafening," Kelly concludes (Kelly, Washington Post, 2/5).
- Chido Nwangwu, Houston Chronicle: Bush's remarks during his State of the Union "placed the issue of AIDS in Africa much nearer the top of the political agenda -- where it belongs," Nwangwu, founder and publisher of USAfrica The Newspaper, the Black Business Journal magazine and www.BBJonline.com, writes in a Chronicle opinion piece. Although during the 2000 presidential campaign Bush "dismissed Africa as not being an area of priority," he has "seen the error of this ways and set out on a better, nobler and more compassionate course." Nwangwu concludes that the president "deserves commendation" for his new initiative and that "all who believe in human decency must join him" (Nwangwu, Houston Chronicle, 2/1).
- Jeffrey Sachs, Financial Times: Bush's initiative is the "first time that an appropriate level of financial resources" has been applied to fight HIV/AIDS, but the proposal is mistaken in its "simplistic vision" of how the programs should be run, Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and chair of the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, writes in a Financial Times opinion piece. By giving "only" $1 billion over five years to the Global Fund, which is "best placed by far" to curb the spread of the disease, Bush's initiative will undermine the "sector-wide approach" in which "donors pool resources to support a single coherent strategy," thereby avoiding the "quirks, politics, reporting requirements and tied aid" involved in dealing with countries on an individual level. Sachs concludes that European nations, Japan and other donors must match the U.S. financial commitments to the fund, forming a "transatlantic alliance" that "continues its historic commitment to freedom and human betterment" (Sachs, Financial Times, 2/3).
- Tom Teepen, Arizona Daily Star: Bush's AIDS proposal is "first, an important humanitarian gesture and ... second, a rare and therefore ... hopeful recognition by Bush that there is more to national security these days than just stomping evil regimes," columnist Teepen writes. This "dramatic step" is "only a down payment on the total problem" in light of mounting AIDS rates in India, China and Russia. Teepen concludes that Bush must realize that "public health is a universal issue," adding that the proposal "will be even more valuable if it also marks a step up the learning curve" (Teepen, Arizona Daily Star, 2/3).
- Cynthia Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: While Bush's proposal is "by no means enough," it is a "good start" provided that he "follows through" after the "TV cameras -- and public attention -- turn away," Journal-Constitution columnist Tucker writes. No other person outside of the realm of scientific research "has as much opportunity to make a historic contribution" to fighting AIDS as Bush. Tucker concludes that U.S. intervention will save lives, "improve our image abroad" and offer the president a "singular chance ... to 'wage peace'" (Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/2).
- Helen Ubinas, Hartford Courant: Spread over five years, Bush's $15 billion dollar plan "comes to about $3 billion a year, roughly what Americans spend on birdseed," columnist Ubinas writes in a Courant opinion piece. Ubinas says that the Bush administration insists on maintaining control over the proposed funds, "as if wanting to make sure it can take the money back if another cost -- say, a war -- comes up." She concludes that Bush is "as sincere [about the plan] as any man dragging a nation to war can be when in desperate need of compassion points," adding that "he'll send some of our children off to die, but then, he may save some of Africa's" (Ubinas, Hartford Courant, 2/7).
The Daily Report previously published a summary of editorials and position statements on Bush's plan. The story is available online.
HealthCasts of Bush's State of the Union address and his remarks from Jan. 31 on international and domestic HIV/AIDS programs are available online at kaisernetwork.org.
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.