In response to the Feb. 5 opinion piece "New Hope for bringing Africa out of AIDS shadow": One of the writer's tenets goes beyond wishful thinking. He builds on President Bush's "commitment" to spend $15 billion over the next five years as if it were truly going to occur. Mr. Bush's actions on the AIDS crisis to date have been woefully inadequate and to an extent made the pandemic even worse.
Early in his term, Bush gave the order to stop promoting contraception in Africa. This stopped the United States government's distribution of condoms, probably resulting in tens of thousands of newly infected people. Last spring Bush announced a hastily conceived program to fight AIDS as part of a new $10 billion millennium fund to help the world's poor.
Several bipartisan AIDS bills have not made it out of his lock step, Republican-led House. His disingenuous use of the AIDS crises during his State of the Union speech should have elicited boos rather than applause. He counts on a TV media and uninformed citizenry to either discount, forget, or not care about what he has said on his ubiquitous campaign stops.
Regarding your Jan. 31 article "How Best To Spend New Aids Money": Thank you for a detailed commentary on Bush's remarkable AIDS proposal. The amounts he proposes triple US funding for AIDS. It seems we are finally waking up to the horrifying AIDS statistics.
At current rates, it is estimated that more people will die of AIDS in the next 30 years than those who died in all the 20th century wars combined. The majority of these deaths are expected to be in Africa.
In this matter, Bush deserves credit and our support.
It won't be easy to get this money through Congress. Those concerned should write to lawmakers, to ensure that this money is appropriated, and that at least half goes to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria. After all, if we can spend millions per day on defense, surely we can afford one percent of this to mitigate the AIDS disaster in Africa.
Regarding "How Best To Spend New AIDS Money": The presence of Peter Mugyenyi at President Bush's State of the Union address was highly significant.
Mr. Mugyenyi is a Ugandan scientist at the forefront of the battle against AIDS in Africa. Uganda is one of the few success stories in the worldwide war on AIDS - thanks to the focus on promoting abstinence and fidelity through a program called ABC, "Abstain, Be faithful, and wear Condoms."
The result of these efforts is that the AIDS infection rate in Uganda dropped more than 65 percent between the years 1991 and 2000.
According to a study of one Ugandan district, almost 60 percent of youths age 13-16 reported engaging in sexual activity in 1994, but by 2001, the number had plummeted to less than 5 percent.
The USAID study reports that compared with men in other sub-Saharan African countries, Ugandan males are "less likely to have ever had sex (in the 15-19-year-old range), more likely to be married and keep sex within marriage, and less likely to have multiple partners."
Fighting AIDS is not simply a money problem. AIDS will not be conquered without behavioral changes, something the Ugandan government recognizes, but which many American liberals and many of those dispensing AIDS dollars do not.
Daniel John Sobieski
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