Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Opinion Pieces on Bush’s Trip to Africa, AIDS Initiative
Many editorials and opinion pieces this week have focused on President Bush's trip to Africa and the global AIDS initiative. Bush this week visited Senegal, South Africa, Botswana and Uganda and will visit Nigeria tomorrow before leaving the continent. During the trip, the president has promoted several initiatives that focus on Africa, including the five-year, $15 billion AIDS initiative (HR 1298), which he signed into law in May. The global AIDS initiative seeks to prevent seven million new HIV infections, provide care for 10 million people living with the disease and provide treatment to two million HIV-positive people (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/9). The following are summaries of some of the editorials and opinion pieces:
Dayton Daily News: Bush is "eager to use [his trip to Africa] to take a victory lap" for his AIDS initiative, but such action is "premature [because] he hasn't earned the humanitarian laurels" yet, a Daily News editorial says. The $2 billion in funding that Bush has requested from Congress for the plan this year is "hardly a jump-start to a life-and-death program." In addition, the AIDS initiative has been undermined by "narrow ideology" in its requirement that one-third of the prevention funds go to abstinence-only programs, and Bush's nomination of chair and CEO of drug maker Eli Lilly Randall Tobias as head of a new State Department office assigned to oversee the global AIDS initiative has left advocates skeptical that he will support the use of generic antiretroviral medications, according to the editorial. The editorial concludes that "deeds must follow [Bush's] words" in order for his "signature humanitarian program" to be seen as anything more than "a show" (Dayton Daily News, 7/9).
- Linda Bilmes, Financial Times: "[N]othing like $15 billion will ever be spent" on the global AIDS initiative, "not [because of] congressional budget-cutting but [because of] the president's failure even to ask for the amounts needed to fulfill his pledge," Bilmes, a professor of budgeting and financial management at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and assistant secretary of commerce under President Clinton, writes in a Financial Times opinion piece. The new spending will be spent "not on drugs nor health clinics but on bureaucratic reshuffling back in Washington, [D.C.]," consolidating scattered U.S. initiatives into a single program at the State Department, she says. Bilmes concludes that while the initiative has "helped to put the fight against HIV/AIDS back on the international policy agenda ... the U.S. still has to put its money where its mouth is" (Bilmes, Financial Times, 7/7).
- Joseph Dolman, Long Island Newsday: Bush's motives in visiting Africa and in supporting the global AIDS initiative are not important, the only important things are for him to "behold -- through his own eyes -- the continent's incredible misery as AIDS tightens its lethal grip" and to "send money ... not $15 billion worth of promises, not $15 billion worth of talk therapy, but $15 billion in negotiable currency," Dolman, a columnist, writes in a Newsday opinion piece. Advocates who worry that Bush's plan will interfere with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and that the president will "waste billions of bucks paying chump retail prices on antiretrovirals to help his political buddies in the pharmaceutical industry" should "give the man a chance," Dolman says. However, there is no more time for "fancy talk," Dolman says, concluding, "It's time to send money" (Dolman, Long Island Newsday, 7/9).
- Thomas Donnelly/Vance Serchuk, Washington Post: "Despite ingrained assumptions about the continent's strategic irrelevance, the Defense Department has begun to realize that U.S. security interests in Africa ... cannot be ignored," Donnelly and Serchuk, resident fellow and researcher, respectively, at American Enterprise Institute, write in a Post opinion piece. Increased U.S. military involvement in Africa is "simply sensible policy," and while it cannot reduce HIV rates, neither can development aid "depose authoritarian thugs or transnational terrorists," Donnelly and Serchuk conclude (Donnelly/Serchuk, Washington Post, 7/7).
- Glen Elder, Burlington Free Press: Now "is not the time to be taking money away from the multilateral" Global Fund, as Bush proposed, because the fund is "scaling up successful programs" and "runs the risk of becoming bankrupt and dumping half a million people from effective drug care programs," Elder, board chair of Vermont CARES and an associate professor of geography at the University of Vermont, writes in a Free Press opinion piece. "The battle against HIV/AIDS will be won on several fronts," and the Global Fund "has a proven track record" of providing support to prevention programs run by local AIDS groups that "know the local context," Elder says, concluding, "While we support the president's initiative, it should not be at the expense" of the Global Fund (Elder, Burlington Free Press, 7/10).
- Janet Fleischman, AllAfrica.com: Pressure from conservative religious groups threatens to influence the United States' approach to AIDS prevention, leading to an emphasis on "abstinence-only" sex education programs, which "divert attention from the broader prevention messages that are proven to save lives," Fleischman, Washington director for Africa at Human Rights Watch, says in an AllAfrica.com opinion piece. Abstinence-only programs are "out of touch with the realities of the AIDS epidemic in Africa," Fleischman says. She concludes that while the initiative shows that Bush wants to be a leader in Africa, during his trip to Africa this week he will "find millions of people looking for more than speeches" (Fleischman, AllAfrica.com, 7/10).
- Chris Hennemeyer, Christian Science Monitor: Bush has "rightly made [HIV/AIDS the] centerpiece of his humanitarian policy toward the continent," and he should push Congress to appropriate the funds needed for his AIDS initiative, Hennemeyer, an international human rights consultant, writes in a Monitor opinion piece. In addition, the Bush administration should use its business connections to convince pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of antiretroviral drugs, Hennemeyer says. "The president has gone out on a limb ... [and he] deserves our full support and, when necessary, our constructive criticism" in confronting the AIDS epidemic, Hennemeyer concludes (Hennemeyer, Christian Science Monitor, 7/7).
- Jeffrey Herbst, Wall Street Journal: Bush's trip to Africa "solidif[ies] one of his most surprising achievements ... [by] becoming the American president most engaged with the African continent in U.S. history," Herbst, chair of the Department of Politics at Princeton University, writes in a Journal opinion piece. The achievement has been ignored by critics of the administration, including former South African President Nelson Mandela, who has let his annoyance over U.S. involvement in Iraq overshadow the fact that Bush has done more to combat AIDS in South Africa than he or Mbeki or Democrats, who fear that his efforts could make "Republican inroads" into the overwhelmingly Democratic African-American constituency, Herbst says. Despite the "tremendous amount still to be done ... the Bush administration" deserves credit for its efforts in Africa, Herbst concludes (Herbst, Wall Street Journal, 7/7).
- Noeleen Heyzer, Washington Post: Women's unequal status in Africa is "the central cause of the rapid transmission of AIDS," and Bush should "take the time to speak with African women infected and affected" by the disease during his visit to the continent, Heyzer, executive director of the U.N. Development Fund for Women, writes in a Post opinion piece. HIV/AIDS prevention strategies have failed primarily because "women have not played a significant role in the design and implementation of these programs," Heyzer says, adding that the key to stopping the epidemic is women's empowerment. Women's lack of power to refuse sex or to negotiate for safer sex, their economic dependence and the burden they assume for family care and farming must change in order to stop the spread of HIV, Heyzer says. She concludes that while the "small component" of the AIDS funding allocated to strengthening women's empowerment is an "important first step ... many more resources must be tapped" (Heyzer, Washington Post, 7/8).
- Cragg Hines, Houston Chronicle: While Bush's attitude toward Africa during the 2000 election seemed to be "Bush to Africa: Drop dead," the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks prompted a shift in the way the administration views Africa, which is "manifest" in Bush's AIDS and Millennium Challenge initiatives, Hines, a columnist, writes in a Chronicle opinion piece. While critics see "lurking the administration's ever-present favoring of Corporate America" in the initiative -- an impression "not helped by Bush's appointment ... of ... former drug company executive [Tobias] to be the administration's point man on AIDS" -- his programs "should not be picked to death [but] ... funded by Congress and activated by the administration," Hines concludes (Hines, Houston Chronicle, 7/8).
- Jim Hoagland, Washington Post: Bush's AIDS initiative needs to be fit into an "overarching and detailed international program that will last a decade or longer" in order to "improve its chances of success," Hoagland, a columnist, writes in a Post opinion piece. Because the president has "recently shown a willingness to jump into raging political torrents abroad ... [h]is task now is to show he can sustain and expand that engagement over time," Hoagland concludes (Hoagland, Washington Post, 7/9).
- Jesse Jackson, Philadelphia Inquirer: While the United States should "applaud that the president feels it necessary to travel to Africa and at least take some measures against the plague of AIDS that threatens to destabilize a continent," it is important not to forget that he has not shown the same attention to blacks in the United States, Jackson, a Democratic party advocate, writes in an Inquirer opinion piece. Jackson concludes that the president's refusal to meet with minority leaders in the United States shows that "[r]eality seems to be making more progress over ideology abroad than it is at home" (Jackson, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/8).
- Julianne Malveaux, Hartford Courant: While Bush's AIDS initiative is "laudable," he seems to be "content to let Congress handle the matter at its own pace" instead of "engaging in [the] congressional arm-twisting" he has used in the past with issues that he considers to be priorities, Malveaux, a member of the board of directors for the Trans Africa Forum, says in a Courant opinion piece. Therefore, Bush needs to "stop talking about the $15 billion he will spend ... until he is willing to put his political capital behind the matter of securing those funds," Malveaux concludes (Malveaux, Hartford Courant, 7/10).
- Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Critics' fears that Bush's involvement in Africa could win black voters "assumes that the majority of American blacks have more than a romantic interest in the affairs of Africa" while in actuality "Africa's troubles haven't been a priority ... with the majority of African Americans," Mitchell, a columnist, writes in a Sun-Times opinion piece. To have National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell "in powerful positions at a time when Africa is steeped in conflicts and reeling from AIDS is nothing short of a blessing" and it will "be interesting to see if the Congressional Black Caucus and other longtime advocacy groups give Bush" the support needed for Congress to appropriate the $15 billion needed for his five-year AIDS initiative, she says. Mitchell concludes that black people do not have to vote for Bush because of his commitment to Africa, "but we do have to give him credit" (Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times, 7/8).
- Ralph Peters, New York Post: We "do not know the long-term effects AIDS will have on Africa ... [if it] will only further impoverish African societies, or lead to unexpected human innovations, from forms of government to religion," as the plague did in 14th-century Europe, Peters, an author and strategist, writes in a Post opinion piece. While HIV/AIDS "is the great tragedy of our time ... [i]t also may be the prelude to a better African tomorrow, to an Africa reborn," he concludes (Peters, New York Post, 7/8).
- Jeffrey Sachs, New York Times: If the United States contributed $8 billion to global health, combined with increased investments from other countries, eight million deaths each year could be prevented, Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes in a Times opinion piece. If the 400 richest people in the United States donated the money they received from Bush's recent tax cut, it would total nearly $7 billion, a "huge chunk of the $8 billion that the United States" should contribute to global health care efforts and an action that could "change the course of Africa's history," he says. Sachs concludes that Bush's trip to Africa should "open [the] eyes" of all Americans to the responsibility we all should share in helping to "ease pain in the world" (Sachs, New York Times, 7/9).
- Claire Short, Financial Times: "A significant advance for Africa is possible" despite the effects of war, drought, malaria and HIV/AIDS, but "little has been achieved," Short, former international development secretary for the United Kingdom, writes in a Times opinion piece. The promises of new resources to fight AIDS "looked better in headlines than in detail," because Bush refuses to back multilateral efforts and insists on sexual abstinence-based sex education programs, she says. Poverty, disease, environmental degradation and conflict present "real danger[s]" to the continent and it remains to be seen if "Bush has the wisdom and patience to support a united international effort to end conflict and support the building of competent, modern states capable of promoting the locally led development that Africa needs," Short concludes (Short, Financial Times, 7/8).
- Deborah Simmons, Washington Times: "The billions of dollars President Bush has proposed spending on the African-Caribbean HIV/AIDS initiative -- and which Congress continues to debate the worthiness of -- are not Monopoly dollars," Simmons, deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Times, writes in a Times opinion piece. She says that the money is "real," as are the malaria and HIV/AIDS epidemics. "Millions of people in Africa are dying and living in fear of dying," she adds, concluding that the money from the global AIDS initiative "will not solve the problem, but [it] will help" (Simmons, Washington Times, 7/11).
- Paul Zeitz/Jeffrey Sachs, Boston Globe: "If Bush really means what he says about battling AIDS, he will support the full $3 billion" authorized in the global AIDS initiative, including $1 billion for the Global Fund; "[o]therwise, his trip [to Africa] could be a cruel illusion, heaping U.S. 'spin' on top of Africa's massive suffering," Zeitz, director of the Global AIDS Alliance, and Sachs write in a Globe opinion piece. Although Bush's plan calls for the creation of a new State Department office to disseminate funding to African nations, "[t]here is a much more direct and meaningful way to give the aid: directly to the Global Fund," Zeitz and Sachs write. If the United States gave at least $1 billion to the fund, the donation would leverage another $2 billion from other countries, they say. However, "Bush unwisely has rejected multilateral approaches to combat infectious diseases even though multilateral efforts have been the most successful in the past, such as in the control of smallpox, African river blindness and polio," the authors say, concluding that the "problem, from the administration's perspective, may be that the Global Fund is not run by the U.S. pharmaceutical industry" (Zeitz/Sachs, Boston Globe, 7/11).