July 20, 2010
Obama’s Overdue AIDS Bill
By DESMOND TUTU
HAVING met President Obama, I’m confident that he’s a man of conscience who shares my commitment to bringing hope and care to the world’s poor. But I am saddened by his decision to spend less than he promised to treat AIDS patients in
George W. Bush made an impressive commitment to the international fight against AIDS when he formed the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program. Since 2004, Pepfar has spent $19 billion to help distribute anti-viral treatments to about 2.5 million Africans infected with H.I.V.
Thanks to these efforts — and similar initiatives, like those spearheaded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — the number of African patients with access to AIDS drugs jumped tenfold from 2003 to 2008. Since 2004, the AIDS-related mortality rate in sub-Saharan
Yet President Obama added only $366 million to the program this year — well below the $1 billion per year he promised to add when he was on the campaign trail. (Pepfar’s total budget now stands at $7 billion.) Most of the countries in Pepfar will see no increase in aid.
Under the Bush administration, about 400,000 more African patients received treatment every year. President Obama’s Pepfar strategy would reduce the number of new patients receiving treatment to 320,000 — resulting in 1.2 million avoidable deaths over the next five years, according to calculations by two Harvard researchers, Rochelle Walensky and Daniel Kuritzkes. Doctors would have to decide which of the 22 million Africans afflicted with H.I.V. should receive treatment and which should not.
President Obama has also proposed to cut
During my life, I’ve witnessed amazing advances in medical science. New treatments turn H.I.V. infection from a death sentence to a manageable illness. The cost of treating it is a small fraction of what it was 10 years ago. Meanwhile, more and more African nations have invested in the public health infrastructure needed to distribute AIDS drugs.
I appreciate that tough financial times require the
As the 18th International AIDS Conference is held this week in
Desmond Tutu is the archbishop emeritus of
Donations can be sent to the
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs