Global AIDS Initiative Seems More Focused on ‘Winning American Votes Than Saving African Lives,’ Columnist Says
As President Bush's five-year, $15 billion AIDS initiative unfolds, it seems to have been drafted "more to win American votes than to save African lives," New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof writes in his Times column. The president has "backtracked" on his promise, calling for $2 billion for the first year of the initiative, rather than the $3 billion that is authorized, and is "fumbling the AIDS initiative by requiring that one-third of prevention funds do nothing but encourage sexual abstinence until marriage, ... [which is] the kind of stipulation set by people who sit in Washington and have never actually set foot in an African village," Kristof says. "Pious lectures" are not going to be enough to change sexual mores, and research has suggested that abstinence education can be effective only in conjunction with "straight talk" about condoms, Kristof says, adding that restricting prevention funds to "abstinence and nothing more, looks as if the administration is more interested in showing that it shares the Christian Right's sexual squeamishness than in fighting AIDS." There is "heartbreaking evidence" all over Africa that "sex kills," but so does "this kind of blushing prudishness," and unless Bush begins to deliver on his promises, the AIDS initiative will look "like the most cynical of gestures -- using the great health tragedy of our age as a cheap photo-op to drape the White House with compassion," Kristof concludes (Kristof, New York Times, 10/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.