Bush AIDS Plan: Mixed Signals

This week many people applauded President Bush’s plan to re-authorize his President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. The program for global AIDS treatment and prevention spending was started in 2003 and was scheduled to expire in 2009. On May 30, Bush expanding the plan to 2013, and the pool of money from $18 to $30 billion. But there has been very little close scrutiny of this program in and of itself, and NO major media coverage of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dropping their initial goals of halving new HIV infections in the US to only a 10 percent decrease. How come there’s been no analysis in the media over the increase in “global HIV prevention” and the lack of attention to domestic prevention efforts, which are dreadfully failing certain communities?

Today’s New York Times published an editorial supporting the PEPFAR plan, with the caveat

The president’s program remains burdened by restrictions requiring that up to 7 percent of the funds be spent on abstinence programs and by Congressional restrictions against providing clean needles to injecting addicts. But the primary need is billions of dollars a year in additional funding. Leaders of the Group of 8 nations ought to follow Mr. Bush’s lead and raise their own contributions to this vital global campaign.

Housing Works in their weekly AIDS Issues Update went further in their critique of the plan, noting the following problems with the plan:

  • Treatment targets were dramatically reduced, leaving 1.5 million PLWHAs without treatment despite prior U.S. promises and per-year PEPFAR funding is essentially flat despite increased infections worldwide.
  • Abstinence-until-marriage initiatives will continue to take up about seven percent of PEPFAR funding—that’s $2.1 billion over the next five years—despite the initiatives’ proven failure to stop the spread of HIV.
  • Acknowledging the “catastrophic” shortage of health care workers in Africa, but failing to address the problem.
  • “As the tide of HIV/AIDS rapidly rises, we are not even treading water,” said Dr. Paul Zeitz of the Global AIDS Alliance. “This is not a plan for victory in the fight against AIDS.”

You can read the The President’s fact sheet on PEPFAR here. But I also wonder why very few media outlets covered the story that the CDC dropped its US HIV prevention goals? POZ magazine published a piece about the CDC renegging on its prevention goals, noting

The CDC fell way short of its 2001 target of reducing new HIV cases by 50 percent over five years—rates are up in some communities and barely down in others. But in March, the agency kicked up some excitement by announcing a “heightened response” to the HIV emergency among African Americans, a major prevention push that would boost testing and outreach from coast to coast in the hard-hit black community. Then earlier this month, the overall 50 percent target was quietly shaved to 10 percent. Confusion reigned—and AIDS advocates sounded an alarm.

While the HIV prevalence rate may be fairly low in the total US population compared to several nations in sub-Saharan Africa, but there are communtities in the US where HIV rates are as bad as the highest nations in sub-Saharan Africa. With execption of certain white gay communtiies like NYC’s Chelsea, the vast majority of these communities are people of African descent within the US. I am all for more funding to prevent more AIDS in Africa. I truly do identify as a Pan-Africanist, as people of African descent find ourselves in similar socio-economic positions globally (at the bottom).

But as insufficient as the Bush PEPFAR plan might be, the same kind of attention (backed with $$$) must be given to the AIDS crisis in Blacks in the US.

One thought on “Bush AIDS Plan: Mixed Signals

  1. the photo says it all. PEPFAR is now and has always been a part of the White House’s “compassionate conservative” agenda. Though the increase is needed and necessary, the fact remains that the U.S. continues to a) support patent protections for life-saving drugs making them astronomically expensive and b) continues to push an a-cultural abstinence only prevention policy that has everything to do with ideology and nothing with science.

    and while im goin the hell off, you are SO right about uniting the demand for resources in Africa and Black communities in the U.S. But here’s the rub, they have the two pots of money completely separate: domestic AIDS money moves through Health n Human Services and international $$ including PEPFAR go through, of all places, the State Dept.

    It makes it tough to bridge the gap btwn domestic and international AIDS advocates….. and unite demands to treat Black people with HIV/AIDS at home and abroad.

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