Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Editorials, Opinion Pieces on Bush’s Trip to Africa, AIDS Initiative
Several editorials and opinion pieces this week have focused on President Bush's trip to Africa and the global AIDS initiative. Bush last week visited Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria. During the trip, Bush 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, 7/14). Summaries of some of the editorials and opinion pieces follow:
Omaha World-Herald: The fact that the House was cutting AIDS funding while Bush was expressing his commitment to the epidemic should not "detract from the good the president did" on his trip through Africa, a World-Herald editorial says. The trip succeeded in showing the strength of Bush's commitment to the epidemic, the global humanitarian concerns of the United States and the "appalling epidemic ravaging Africa," the editorial concludes (Omaha World-Herald, 7/14).
Philadelphia Inquirer: Bush "convincingly expressed concern" for those suffering from AIDS in Africa during his tour of the continent, an Inquirer editorial says. however, if Bush "truly believes" his statement that "the AIDS threat requires speedy action," he should ask lawmakers "to spend a full $3 billion a year" on his global AIDS initiative, "with a bigger chunk" given to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria instead of the U.S. office he established, the editorial concludes (Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/15).
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Bush needs to "smack [Congress] down" as it "edges towards eking out $2 billion rather than $3 billion for the first year" of his global AIDS initiative, a Post-Gazette editorial says. Bush has returned from his trip to Africa "with a full plate, if the trip is to become a serious step in a U.S. policy toward Africa," and "if he is serious, his agenda should now include full funding of the AIDS commitment," the editorial concludes (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7/15).
- Stephen Buckley, St. Petersburg Times: Bush's trip to Africa "marks a real opportunity for the United States ... to shed the reductive policies of the past ... in favor of a long-term approach" to the problems of the continent, including the continuing AIDS epidemic, Buckley, editor of world news for the Times, says in an opinion piece. While many observers have debated whether Bush's interest in Africa is "permanent or passing," it is important to note that it is rare for a current U.S. president to visit Africa and even more rare to do so with specific proposals, such as his global AIDS initiative. Although Congress has "slashed" funding for the first year of the AIDS initiative, "it's at least something tangible" and those affected by AIDS "are surely not going to turn their backs on the help," Buckley concludes (Buckley, St. Petersburg Times, 7/13).
- Craig Calhoun, Akron Beacon Journal: The AIDS epidemic cannot be stopped without "effective health care delivery," comprehensive sex education, the empowerment of women and an effort to "sustain rural communities and cultures," Calhoun, president of the Social Science Research Council, says in a Beacon Journal opinion piece. While Bush should be "congratulated for seeing the importance of the African AIDS Crisis ... he also needs to see that funds, earmarked for medical research and drugs, must be complemented by an effort to understand the social causes of the disease and the social conditions that enable medical treatments to be effective," such as democratic government and strong local communities and families, Calhoun concludes (Calhoun, Akron Beacon Journal, 7/13).
- Jesse Jackson, Chicago Sun-Times: It is "laudable that the president went to Africa" because presidential trips "put countries on the map of media consciousness" and serve to "emphasiz[e] the importance of [the continent] economically and strategically," Jackson, a Democratic party advocate, writes in a Sun-Times opinion piece. However, the "well-scripted scenes of the White House public relations operation are increasingly marred by the ever more apparent gulf between word and deed, image and reality," Jackson says. He concludes that Bush's "much-publicized AIDS initiative is now stained by inaction that mocks his commitment" (Jackson, Chicago Sun-Times, 7/15).
- Tony Lang, Cincinnati Enquirer: Bush has "powerful strategic reasons" for visiting Africa aside from showing the United States' "compassionate side" and gaining more votes from African Americans for the 2004 elections; he also used the trip as a "shrewd maneuver to apply domestic pressure ... on congressional committees debating whether to fully appropriate" his AIDS initiative, Lang, an editorial writer, says in an Enquirer opinion piece. Bush's trip also shows the interest in Africa engendered by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Bush's AIDS initiative seeks to avoid a scenario in which AIDS orphans are forced to raise each other, a national security concern in light of the fact that child soldiers have become common in African guerilla armies, Lang concludes (Lang, Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/13).
- Robert Rotberg, Boston Globe: "Even if Congress claims that the president is not campaigning hard enough to fund his AIDS initiative on Capitol Hill, the president does aim squarely to help prevent and fight the dreadful disease," Rotberg, director of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government Program on Intrastate Conflict and president of the World Peace Foundation, writes in a Globe opinion piece. However, Bush's "swift leapfrog from capital to capital [in Africa] was heavy on photo opportunities and platitudes but light on accomplishments and policy articulations," including a "key [missed] opportunity to push [South African President Thabo] Mbeki hard on providing antiretroviral drugs to AIDS patients" in South Africa, Rotberg concludes (Rotberg, Boston Globe, 7/15).
- Cynthia Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Mbeki's "refusal to use the tools at hand" to "rescue his people" from the AIDS epidemic is "tantamount to genocide," and it is "time for black American activists to say so," Tucker, editorial page editor, says in a Journal-Constitution opinion piece. By African standards, South Africa has a "relatively well-developed infrastructure" that is capable of delivering antiretroviral drugs and of transmitting a "broad public health campaign," Tucker says. While some AIDS advocates were disappointed that Bush did not publicly criticize Mbeki for his stance on the issue during his trip to the country, the lobbying effort would be "more appropriately taken up" by the African-American activists who played a large role in the battle to end apartheid and therefore have "credibility on issues affecting South Africa," Tucker concludes (Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/13).