Helping Provide Antiretroviral Access Abroad ‘Earns’ U.S. ‘Considerable Goodwill,’ Editorial Says
When President Bush in 2003 "proposed to take the fight against AIDS to Africa" with the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, slowing the "spread of the disease seemed quixotic, particularly on a continent where only about 50,000 of the 30 million" people worldwide living with the disease had treatment access, a Washington Post editorial says. However, PEPFAR has had a "profound impact," the editorial says, adding that after "five years and $15 billion, 1.7 million people are receiving treatment." In addition, some countries in sub-Saharan Africa have "spent more of their own money to combat HIV/AIDS," according to the editorial. It adds, "The disease still ravages millions of Africans, but it is no longer an automatic death sentence."
Bush in July signed into law a bill that reauthorizes PEPFAR at $48 billion over five years, the editorial says, adding, "Unfortunately, key congressional subcommittees have approved funding at levels below those set in the bill. The budget for foreign aid is insufficient, and there are many worthy programs." Full funding still should be a "priority in future years," according to the editorial, which adds that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) has pledged to "fully fund the legislation," while presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) "co-sponsored the bill but has been less vocal about his support."
Some advocates "wonder whether the government should shift resources to fight the disease domestically," according to the editorial. In addition, CDC recently reported that the "government has underestimated [U.S.] HIV/AIDS infections by 40% per year for the past decade," the editorial says. These are "disturbing trends that need to be addressed, but not at the expense of progress overseas," the editorial says, adding, "Helping to treat AIDS patients in poor countries earns the United States considerable goodwill abroad." It concludes, "It's also the right thing to do" (Washington Post, 8/17).