Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Opinion Pieces Responding To President Bush’s Philadelphia Speech on AIDS
Several newspapers have published editorials and opinion pieces in response to President Bush's speech on HIV/AIDS that he delivered last week at Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia. Summaries of some of them appear below:
Allentown Morning Call: Although Bush has pledged more money to fight global HIV/AIDS than any previous administration, Bush's "actions don't live up to the advertising," a Morning Call editorial says (Allentown Morning Call, 6/27). Bush in Philadelphia on Wednesday said he would seek the "immediate release" of $500 million as part of the five-year, $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, amid criticism that the program is moving too slowly. Bush also announced that Vietnam will be the 15th country to receive funding under PEPFAR. PEPFAR this year has allocated $350 million to combat HIV/AIDS for the 15 eligible focus countries (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/24). There is "no question" that Vietnam could use more funding to fight HIV/AIDS, but some argue that "bigger countries," such as India and China, are "more deserving" of the money because they have larger populations and more HIV-positive people, the editorial says. In addition, it is "good" that Bush chose to advocate for a "broader," more "comprehensive" approach to HIV/AIDS prevention in his Philadelphia speech, the editorial says, concluding that the "basic ABCs" -- Abstain, Be faithful, use Condoms -- has been successful in some African countries and will be an "effective addition" to Bush's policy (Allentown Morning Call, 6/27).
Houston Chronicle: Bush's decision -- which he announced last week -- to make Vietnam the 15th "focus country" to receive funding under PEPFAR "was not an indefensible choice," although "[b]ypassing such obvious prospective candidates as India and China, or even Cambodia" may have "left some health strategists perplexed," a Chronicle editorial says. The Bush administration said that Vietnam is "on the brink of an explosive epidemic" and estimated that the country could have as many as one million people infected with HIV by 2010, according to the editorial. In addition, Bush said that Vietnamese officials are "cooperative and wan[t] help," adding that recognition of an HIV/AIDS "problem" is "an important part of battling the pandemic," the editorial says. Such recognition is "so important" that the Bush administration should exert "more diplomatic pressure on the laggards," according to the editorial. "[T]here should be no room for nations that do not want to be a 'focus country' because of false pride or the fear that such a designation may be bad for business," the editorial continues, adding, "Assistance should not be based on a geopolitical feel-good factor. The administration should spotlight foreign leaders who cling to mystic misconceptions about the disease and how it is transmitted" (Houston Chronicle, 6/26).
Philadelphia Daily News: While "looking for votes" in the "great swing state of Pennsylvania," Bush announced a "new outlook" in the fight against AIDS -- the use of condoms, a Daily News editorial says (Philadelphia Daily News, 6/25). Speaking about domestic prevention programs, Bush on Wednesday said, "We can learn from the experiences of other countries when it comes to a good program to prevent the spread of AIDS, like the nation of Uganda. They've started what they call the 'ABC' approach to prevention of this deadly disease. That stands for: Abstain, Be faithful in marriage, and, when appropriate, use Condoms" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/24). This is the "first time the president has used the c-word, which makes conservatives jittery," the editorial says. Although the president's plan "sounds good, ... we've learned that when it comes to Bush and AIDS, the president is all reservoir tip and no cattle," the editorial says, adding that only $350 million of the $15 billion he has promised in the fight against global AIDS has been disbursed. In addition, Bush "remains opposed" to funding reproductive health programs that provide information on abortion, and he wants to cut funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the editorial says. "George W. puts on a good show. But upon closer inspection, it's as thin as, well, we won't go there," the editorial concludes (Philadelphia Daily News, 6/25).
- San Francisco Chronicle: The Bush administration should "move faster and further in fighting AIDS" because the "small steps taken so far don't match the death count," a Chronicle editorial says. Bush's record since he announced PEPFAR "shows a religious conservative slowly bending to science and political pressure," according to the Chronicle. Bush seems to be "favoring organized programs and expensive" brand-name drugs over less-expensive generics, the editorial says. The Bush administration also had been "insisting on sexual abstinence as a mainstay preventive," the editorial says, adding that Bush could be "part of the AIDS learning curve" now that "he's now allowing money for condoms." The editorial says that the funding shift marks an "important change at odds with many of his religious-right supporters." However, his decision to name Vietnam -- instead of Russia, China or India -- as the 15th country to receive money under PEPFAR "evades the grave problem posed by three large nations just beginning to face up to a devastating peril," the Chronicle says. The editorial concludes that "[e]nding the AIDS scourge will take cooperation, innovation and billions of dollars," and the "epidemic needs bolder action" (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/25).
- Janet Fleischman, Washington Post: Although the theme of the XV International AIDS Conference -- "Access for All" -- sets an "appropriately high standard, ... all too many prevention and treatment programs fail to address the needs of most of those living with the virus, ... women and girls," Fleischman, an adviser to UNAIDS' Global Coalition on Women and AIDS and chair of the gender committee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies HIV/AIDS Task Force, writes in a Post opinion piece. The traditional ABC prevention method fails to recognize that "these things are often not within women's power," Fleischman says. Therefore we must add "DEF": Disclosure of HIV status, Education and Female-controlled prevention methods, Fleischman says, concluding that the conference must "propel concerted and targeted actions to counter the current inequality of access for women and girls" (Fleischman, Washington Post, 6/29).
- Alfred Doblin, New Jersey Herald News: Although the support for condom use that Bush expressed in his speech in Philadelphia is a "significant shift," he should "commit to more than an 'ABC' speech," Doblin, a Herald News editorial page editor, writes in a Herald News opinion piece. The administration should "put up real money for research and for a public service campaign that honestly talks to the communities at risk," Doblin says. In addition, "honest talk would help," Doblin says, adding that instead of "continu[ing] to talk to America like a 1950s sitcom dad, Bush should acknowledge that life in the 21st century is not 'The Donna Reed Show.'" Doblin adds that if Bush is unwilling to "budge" on the issue of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, "he might satisfy some moderate voters by his willingness to tackle another important health issue: AIDS" (Doblin, New Jersey Herald News, 6/28).
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Opposing Opinion Pieces
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Although Bush has allowed "ideology rather than science to dictate" his HIV prevention policies, last week he "broke his long and disquieting silence" on the "critical role" of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV, a Journal-Constitution editorial says. "Given the stakes" in the fight against AIDS, "the president should be taken at his word and pressured to provide more funding for condoms," the editorial says, adding that the administration should "reconsider its commitment" to allocating one-third of the PEPFAR prevention funding for abstinence-only programs (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/28).
- J. Thomas Fitch, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The terms "protected sex" and "safe sex" are misleading because condoms do not "guarantee safety" or provide "absolute protection" against HIV, Fitch, a San Antonio physician, writes in an opposing Journal-Constitution opinion piece. Many people "fully believe that a condom will protect them from contracting a sexually transmitted disease almost 100% of the time," Fitch says. However, studies show that consistent condom use reduces the risk of HIV transmission by 80% to 90%, Fitch adds. Therefore, "more accurate" terminology such as "sex with a condom" and "sex without a condom" should be used, Fitch says, concluding that "the only true safe sex is sex within a lifelong, mutually faithful, monogamous relationship ... in which both partners are uninfected" (Fitch, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/28).