U.S. HIV/AIDS, Development Work in Africa ‘Wise Exercise of American Influence,’ Bush Says
The U.S. effort to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa is "work of healing and redemption" and is a "wise exercise of American influence," President Bush said Thursday during a speech at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., USA Today reports. "The changes taking place in Africa don't always make the headlines," Bush said, adding, "The work is quiet, but it is not thankless" (Wolf, USA Today, 2/15).
Bush delivered his speech a day before he and first lady Laura Bush take a five-country tour of Africa in part to highlight programs funded by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the President's Malaria Initiative, the Wall Street Journal reports. The president likely will highlight his PEPFAR reauthorization request while on the tour, according to the Journal (McKinnon, Wall Street Journal, 2/15).
The president and Laura Bush will begin their trip in Benin. They plan to meet with Benin's President Thomas Yayi to discuss the progress of PMI and Millennium Challenge Corporation programs in the country. The Bushes then are scheduled to visit Tanzania. They plan to visit several facilities in Arusha, Tanzania, including a factory that manufactures insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria. In addition, the president will participate in a discussion about PEPFAR programs in the country. Bush and the first lady will then travel to Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Policy Report, 2/14).
Bush in his speech on Thursday said that one of the "major priorities" of his presidency has been to "fundamentally alte[r] our policy toward Africa," adding, "Paternalism has got to be a thing of the past. Joint venturing with good, capable people is what the future is all about" (Baker, Washington Post, 2/15). He also sought to assure the African people that the U.S. "is committed to them today, tomorrow and long into their continent's bright future," according to the Los Angeles Times (Gerstenzang, Los Angeles Times, 2/15).
"We've seen that conditions on the other side of the world can have a direct impact on our own security," Bush said, adding, "We know that if Africa were to continue on the old path of decline, it would be more likely to produce failed states, foster ideologies of radicalism and spread violence across borders" (Stolberg, New York Times, 2/15). In addition, Bush said, "Across Africa, people have begun to speak of the 'Lazarus effect,' where communities once given up for dead are coming back to life," adding, "Some call this a remarkable success. I call it a good start."
According to USA Today, some critics say the $30 billion Bush is requesting for the next five years of PEPFAR represents no increase from the current fiscal year's funding level. Critics also object to a requirement that a portion of the program's HIV/AIDS prevention funds be spent on abstinence education. Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, said the ideological approach to PEPFAR is "extremely flawed" and the fund insufficient (USA Today, 2/15).