AIDS/HIV

"In his State of the Union Address in January 2003, President Bush announced a $15 billion, five-year initiative to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean...

"But Bush's appointment of Tobia was a tip-off. Tobias, a former pharmaceutical executive and major Republican Party donor, had no training in public health administration, much less specialized expertise working with HIV/AIDS...

""The policies that Tobias is promulgating and advocating for are dangerous to public health," says Dr. Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, a Washington-based nonprofit organization. "They are slowing down, if not undermining, the global response to AIDS. As a result, the Bush initiative is actually doing more harm than good."

"In recent months, Tobias has become a leading broker of misinformation about prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. In public forums, he has argued that condoms don't work and he has suggested that life-saving generic drugs aren't as safe as brand-name medications.

"At the same time, he has made disparaging remarks about the world's most important mechanism for financing the treatment of AIDS--a public-private partnership known as the Global Fund--just as President Bush attempts to drain some of that organization's vital funding...

"Data supporting the efficacy of condoms in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases isn't hard to come by. As long ago as March 1988, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report stating that while condom use cannot completely eliminate the risk of tranmission, epidemiological and laboratory studies showed that latex condoms blocked passage of HIV. Failure of condoms to protect against STD "is probably explained by user failure more often than by product failure," the report says...

"...the Bush Administration is suggesting abstinence...

""The U.S. government is willfully electing to treat one person when they could be treating three," says Cohen.

"Tobias is "dangerous," says generic drug advocate William Haddad, who has traveled through Botswana, Nigeria, Ghana, madagascar, Tanzania, and many other developing nations distributing generic AIDS drugs. "When you follow these policies to the end, you see dead children. And I'm not kidding. This is not some theoretical policy discussion in Washington. This has consequences: 8,000 lives a day"" (Nina Siegal. "No Experience Necessary." The Progressive, Nov. 2004: 31-33).


"In early May, Brazil declared its defiance of American diktats abroad. The coutry's national AIDS commissioner, HIV doctor Pedro Chequer, turned down $40 million in US assistance for its fight against AIDS rather than sign a statement condemning prostitution. "For us it was an ethical issue," Chequer told The Nation. "We have to reach every segment of society, with no discrimination. Besides, no country is supposed to decide what another country must do." At a time when the Bush administration has elected itself not only the world's cop but its pope, too, Brazil's audacity carries the shock of the new...

"In Brazil, where prostitution is legal, the government was unwilling to turn its back on a population that's not only among the most vulnerable to HIV but also amont the most active in combating it...

"Brazil's aggressive approach to controlling AIDS, which includes HIV treatment, massive condom distribution and explicit HIV education, has produced one of the few success stories in the developing world....

"Brazil's act of resistance is especially important as the right intensifies its campaign to attach fundamentalist restrictions to foreign aid... the infamous [U.S.] gag rule that requires overseas NGOs to forswear abortion services and advocacy or lose US aid" (Esther Kaplan. "Just say nao." The Nation, May 30, 2005: 4-5).


Colby Glass, MLIS