Bush Continues Africa Trip With Stop in Uganda; Advocates There Want Signs Bush Is Serious About AIDS Fight
President Bush today continues his trip through Africa with a stop in Uganda, which has been "hailed as an African pioneer in fighting the epidemic," Reuters reports (Green, Reuters, 7/11). Uganda has had success in lowering its HIV prevalence by employing the "ABC" HIV prevention model -- abstinence, be faithful, use condoms. Bush has cited Uganda's program as a model for his five-year, $15 billion global AIDS initiative. The country's HIV prevalence has dropped from 30% of the population to 5% in a little more than 10 years. In addition, condom use in the country has increased from 5% in 1990 to 54% today (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/10). During his four-hour visit to Uganda, Bush was scheduled to meet with President Yoweri Museveni and visit TASO, an AIDS support organization and clinic (Xinhua News Agency, 7/11).
Advocates Call for Action
AIDS advocates in the country are calling for signs from Bush that "he meant business with his [global AIDS initiative]" plan, according to Reuters. Rosette Mutambi, coordinator of the Uganda Access Coalition, said, "People are dying in thousands. I wouldn't want to think that he can go against what he has committed himself to do" (Reuters, 7/11). Winnie Byanyima, a former member of Museveni's party and the wife of exiled presidential candidate Kizza Besigye, said that she is concerned Bush would "put Museveni on a pedestal" for his efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and "disregard" other problems in the country, according to the Washington Post. She said, "We are a very unstable country. We can go up in flames at any time. We have armed conflicts in the north. We have a government that is not respecting the rule of constitutional law. We are at a very dangerous point" (Wax, Washington Post, 7/11). Before Bush arrived, Ugandan AIDS advocate Milly Katana said that Bush should not "leave [the country] without signing a check" for $3 billion to fight AIDS in fiscal year 2004 and without "making a promise" to pledge more funds to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Katana added, "This is not a visit of looking good but [of] displaying the evil that disease has caused to Uganda and Africa in general. To frontline workers, it is a visit for transforming the AIDS response in Africa" (Boseley, Guardian, 7/11).
Appropriations Action Coincides With Botswana Visit
While Bush was in Botswana yesterday, the House Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee approved almost $1.3 billion in funding for the global AIDS initiative, the New York Times reports (Stevenson, New York Times, 7/11). The subcommittee approved $1.27 billion to fight AIDS under the FY 2004 foreign operations appropriations bill -- $86 million more than Bush requested. The full House approved the Labor-Health and Human Services appropriations bill, including an additional $644 million for AIDS prevention and research overseas and $155 million for tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, bringing the funding total to a little more than $2 billion (Allen, Reuters/Newark Star Ledger, 7/11). Some Democrats in the House have said that $2 billion is "inadequate" to meet the goals of the president's initiative, and are calling for an additional $1 billion for next year, the Washington Post reports. In addition, HIV/AIDS advocates in Botswana and other countries are concerned about "receiving less money than expected" because they were "counting on the help," according to the Post (Milbank, Washington Post, 7/11). Botswana has the highest HIV prevalence in the world -- currently, 36% of the country's 1.6 million people are HIV-positive. By 2010, more than 50% of the country's children will be AIDS orphans and the average life expectancy will have fallen from 47 years to 27 years (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/10). Botswana's Health Minister Joy Phumaphi said following Bush's visit that his administration's AIDS proposal is "the most attention we've ever received -- if it is actually delivered." She also said that the funds would have a "significant impact," adding, "We are hoping that they will deliver" (Washington Post, 7/11).
Bush lauded Botswanan President Festus Mogae for "admitting that there is a problem [with HIV/AIDS in the country] and then ... working to put a strategy in place to prevent and treat it" (McQuillan, USA Today, 7/11). Mogae said, "Recently, when Botswana appealed to the United States for help in the fight against HIV/AIDS, you ... increased the funding for the ... testing and counseling program." He added, "The assistance and cooperation we have received clearly demonstrates that, in the United States, Botswana has a true and dependable partner" (Kemper, Chicago Tribune, 7/11). "The [AIDS testing and counseling] program is going very well," Mogae said. Dr. Ernest Darkoh, operations manager of the new Botswana antiretroviral drug treatment program, "welcomed" the global AIDS initiative, according to the Dallas Morning News. However, he added, "Money is important, but it is not the only important factor. The real issue is capacity building" (Hillman, Dallas Morning News, 7/11). Bush is scheduled to conclude his trip to Africa tomorrow in Nigeria (Xinhua News Agency, 7/10).
First Lady Visits Clinic
During the Botswanan leg of the trip, first lady Laura Bush and daughter Barbara visited an AIDS care center established with U.S. assistance, Reuters reports (Thomson, Reuters, 7/10). The Children's Clinical Centre of Excellence project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Secure the Future initiative, is a partnership among BMS, Houston-based Baylor College of Medicine's International Pediatrics AIDS Initiative and the Botswanan government. The center houses a large outpatient clinic, pharmacy, laboratory, medical library, conference center and offices and provides nutritional, psychological, social and child life services along with comprehensive primary and specialty care for infants and children who are HIV-positive or who have been orphaned by the epidemic (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/10). Between 600 and 700 children are treated with antiretroviral drugs through the center, and the hospital provides the medicines to nearly 5,000 more people through the country's treatment program. Gabriel Anabwani, the center's director, said, "Other hospitals are picking up too, and the rollout program is under way. But we are not close to achieving the target of giving treatment to all" (Reuters, 7/10). The first lady said that the global AIDS initiative is "showing people [in Africa] what the real face of America is like, the compassion that Americans have for the people here who are suffering with AIDS" (Kraft, AP/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 7/11).
The following broadcast programs reported on Bush's trip to Africa:
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The program reports on Bush's visit to Botswana (Gonyea, "All Things Considered," NPR, 7/10). The segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The program includes two segments on Bush's Africa trip, the first of which includes commentary by journalist Armstrong Williams comparing the Bush administration's support for Africa with that of the Clinton administration (Williams, "Morning Edition," NPR, 7/11). The segment is available online in RealPlayer. The second segment reports that Bush will visit an AIDS clinic during his stop in Uganda (Wilson, "Morning Edition," NPR, 7/11). The segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "Talk of the Nation": The segment reports on Museveni's success in fighting AIDS in Uganda and includes comments by American University Professor of Economics George Ayittey and Museveni (Neary, "Talk of the Nation," NPR, 7/10). The segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer": In a two-part report, correspondent Susan Dentzer examines Botswana's progress in fighting AIDS. The segments include comments by Bush and Mogae (Dentzer, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 7/10). Audio of the segment is available online in RealPlayer. Ray Suarez also discusses the AIDS epidemic in Africa with Botswana's ambassador to the United States Caesar Lekoa, World Bank Managing Director for Health and Education Dr. Mamphela Ramphele and Coordinator of the United Nations Millennium Project's task force on HIV/AIDS Josh Ruxin (Suarez, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 7/10). Audio of the segment is available online in RealPlayer.