Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bush Jr's ignorance undermining effective HIV/AIDS programs

(RANT: Just needed to post this rant some place.)

I just heard today's Fresh Air interview with epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. She carefully credits the Bush Jr. Administration for boldly funding AIDS treatment in Africa. However, she also strongly criticizes the abstinence-only dogma tactic that is undermining the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Pisani has published a new book The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS. A blog entry the book's website includes some of her criticisms of US policy:

Treating our failures

As Think Progress and CREDO pointed out, George Bush shouldn’t have been quite so smug in his State of the Union address. They list some of the ways that US money is undermining progress against HIV. But I’m afraid they’ve missed some other gems that the administration has thrown up in the way of effective HIV prevention.

One is the Loyalty Oath. Different from the gag rule, the Loyalty Oath prevents organisations that accept any funding from the US from working constructively with sex workers, because it prevents us from recognising sex work as a legitimate way of making a living. The restriction applies not just to US money, but to ANY money. i.e. if a government accepts US money to do abstinence programmes, it is not allowed to use its own taxpayers’ money to improve working conditions in the sex trade. Some governments have the balls to treat this violation of their sovereignty with the contempt it deserves. Brazil, for example, turned down US$ 40 million dollars of US “aid” money for HIV prevention because it wanted to continue to engage prostitutes in prevention programmes as grown-ups making independent economic choices, rather than as simple victims of trafficking.

The second is the prohibition on spending money on clean needles for injectors. In most of Asia and much of Latin America, drug injection is the major driver of HIV infection. It has recently surfaced as well in Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania, which are already struggling to deal with sexual infections. Sterile needle programmes are one of the most effective, and cost-effective, HIV prevention strategies. But under current US policy we can’t use them. We’ll give expensive, US-made pharmaceuticals to people once they are infected, but we won’t stop them getting infected in the first place. Go figure.

We won't let countries use their own money to develop their own programs? Yet, again, the Bush Jr. has an incredible talent of alienating and demeaning people and governments around the world.

Like the way he arrogantly divided the world after 9/11; like Bush Jr. at-best ignorant and at-worst criminal decision to needlessly invade a country; like his failed economic, environmental, energy, education, and auto industry regulations that have left us in ruins; Bush Jr. & Co.'s HIV/AIDS isn't about listening to experts and developing effective policy. Instead, Bush Jr. was about placating the religious right and enacting some right-wing dogma into government policy. Not sure there is any more to say other than to keep watching that counter on my blog and maybe give a few extra bucks to Obama and the Democratic Party.

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