Bush’s shell game: are the president’s bold steps against the global AIDS pandemic glossing over his antigay attempts to fight the disease here at home? – Health

Bush’s shell game: are the president’s bold steps against the global AIDS pandemic glossing over his antigay attempts to fight the disease here at home? – Health – George W. Bush

Chris Bull

President Bush startled the nation in January when he announced during his State of the Union address that he would triple spending to fight the global AIDS epidemic to $15 billion over the next five years.

“We have a chance to achieve a more compassionate world for every citizen,” the president declared. “America believes deeply that every body has worth, everybody matters, everybody was created by the Almighty, and we’re going to act on that belief, and we’ll act on that passion.”

The Administration’s initiative, which must be approved by Congress, was the culmination of a shift in focus toward the international dimensions of the pandemic, in which a staggering 50 million people already are estimated to be infected with HIV.

Advocates for people with AIDS, unaccustomed to a Republican president’s commitment to combating a virus spread primarily through sexual contact, welcomed the initiative. But many expressed concern that the White House was sending a double message about the pandemic. Jerry Thacker, the president’s most recent appointment to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, withdrew January 23 after media outlets reported that he’d called homosexuality a “deathstyle” and described AIDS as a “gay plague,” even though gay men make up a tiny fraction of the total number of worldwide HIV infections. The president’s AIDS budget is also far less generous on the domestic front, where the Ryan White act is flat-funded. The budget also calls for $4 million less in HIV-prevention spending than he requested last year.

“It’s great to see the president committing to Africa, which has too long been ignored by the United States,” says Darlene Weide, executive director of San Francisco’s Stop AIDS Project. “On the other hand, we are concerned that HIV prevention efforts domestically are being influenced by political interests in the Republican Party that favor faith-based, antigay, abstinence-only education programs. We’ll see how this philosophy develops internationally, but we’re concerned about the way science is being ignored.”–C.B.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Liberation Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group