To the Next President, A Call to Arms Against AIDS

This summer, President Bush reauthorized PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The bill allocates up to $39 billion for AIDS prevention, treatment, and education in 114 countries worldwide, including much of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In order to qualify for the emergency funding, every participating nation must adopt a set of strategic principles, known as the Three Ones: “one national plan, one national coordinating authority, and one national monitoring and evaluation system in each of the host countries in which organizations work.” In other words, they need what’s referred to as a “national AIDS strategy” to see any cash.

But ironically, the United States lacks a unifying AIDS strategy of its own and has allowed funding for domestic AIDS programs to slip. This August the CDC revealed that America’s AIDS infection rates were up 40 percent from their previous estimate. This translates to at least 56,000 new infections each year. John McCain recently voiced his support for a national AIDS strategy, while Barack Obama gave his endorsement last fall. But a mere endorsement is not enough. POZ magazine has put forth seven specific steps to battle AIDS in America, to be executed by the next president during his crucial first 100 days in office.

The steps are straightforward and packed with information, insistent but not preachy or angry. They remind us that while socioeconomic status, gender, geography, and sexual orientation often come into play, AIDS infects indiscriminately. It must be addressed as an epidemic, and every American should have equal access to treatment and education resources.

HIV/AIDS issues may take a back seat to the economic crisis and foreign policy, at least for the time being, but the urgency of the domestic AIDS crisis can’t be ignore for much longer.

For more on Bush’s bumbling AIDS policies, both domestic and foreign, read Utne Reader librarian Danielle Maestretti’s Shelf Life column, “Bush: The AIDS President?“, from our July-August issue.

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