George W. Bush: No Retreat in the Fight Against AIDS

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    Dec 02, 2011 12:09 AM GMT

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    No Retreat in the Fight Against AIDS - Humanitarian assistance, including AIDS relief, represents less than 1% of our federal budget. Reducing that would only increase suffering.

    Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

    On this Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, the promise of progress against the disease has never been more vivid—or more fragile.

    Just a decade ago in Africa, infection rates were soaring, millions faced the certainty of a wasting death, and whole nations were on the brink of despair. All this was taking place even though effective AIDS treatments were common in the developed world. The suffering of Africa was both vast and unnecessary.

    The creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis in 2002, and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar) in 2003, tested the proposition that large-scale treatment, prevention and compassionate care could be done in nations with weak health systems. Some were skeptical, particularly about the possibility of treatment. That skepticism has now proved unfounded.

    In 2003, there were just 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa on antiretroviral therapy to suppress HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Today, more than 4.7 million people receive AIDS treatment through Pepfar and the Global Fund. At least 450,000 children have been born HIV-negative due to Pepfar's diagnosis and treatment programs that prevent mother-to-child transmission.


    Yet at the same time that a renewed commitment on AIDS is needed, there is a risk it could be weakened. America and Europe face fiscal constraints. During moments of economic hardship, there is a temptation for Americans to disengage from the world. But isolationism is always shortsighted and too often leads to greater hardship and despair in places that need our help.


    Fighting HIV/AIDS is a goal that can unite nations, as well as people of various political ideologies. It is a cause broad enough to include the medical profession and religious congregations, human rights advocates and pro-life activists. There is work to be done for private companies, nonprofit organizations, government leaders, and even former government leaders. This extraordinary coalition has an extraordinary goal within sight—the creation of an AIDS-free generation.

    In lean budget times, the U.S. and the developing world must prioritize. But there can be no higher priority than saving lives. And there is no better way to save lives than to support and expand effective, proven programs such as Pepfar.

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    Dec 02, 2011 6:56 PM GMT
    With all the discussions of World AIDS Day, this is relevant.