Funds to battle AIDS epidemic should be given as promised

As the AIDS crisis in Africa continues, President George W. Bush and the congressional leadership are working together to cut back the $15 billion that Bush promised in his most recent State of the Union address in January. The administrations actions look particularly callous when compared to the recent efforts of President Bill Clinton, who made critically needed prescriptions drugs available to the poor and infected in Africa.

In recent months, Bush and senators have visited Africa and been photographed holding sick babies and caressing the hands of dying women to show their empathy towards the situations that millions of Africans are facing. Yet at the same time they cut next year’s global AIDS budget by 30 percent.

Bush made a favorable impression on the world community during his State of the Union speech in January when he pledged $15 billion over five years to fund the treatment and fight the spread of AIDS. Bush then went on to endorse Congress’ authorization of a $3 billion budget for 2004, only to later cut that appropriation to $2.1billion, with a majority of that allocated for the national AIDS program here in the States.

While Bush reneged on his acclaimed promise, his predecessor, Clinto,n showed him how things are done. Clinton recently brokered a deal with four drug companies to reduce the price of their generic AIDS medications to a third of the price of their patented counterparts. AIDS organizations around the world hailed this as a great leap forward, saying it may save millions of lives as infected people from Africa and the Caribbean are now expected to receive medications previously unavailable to them.

Dr. Lee Jong-Wook, director of the World Health Organization said, “Providing AIDS treatment to those who most urgently need it in poor countries is the most urgent health challenge the world faces,” stressing how important this deal is to the health of the world.

What the situation boils down to is that Bush, who is currently holding political office, has promised a lot has produced little to help the thousands that die of AIDS everyday. By contrast, Clinton, who holds no office, has just negotiated a breakthrough in the treatment of AIDS patients. Sadly, it seems seeking re-election is more important than getting much-needed relief to the people. Bush got his photo opportunity in Africa, now he should deliver on his promise.