Bush’s AIDS initiative pledge should be kept

The United States has long ignored the plight of the African AIDS epidemic. So when President George W. Bush announced a landmark program to try to conquer the AIDS problem in Africa, people world-wide showered him with praise. But now, as the applause has died down and the time has come to fund his initiative, Bush appears to be softening his commitment. And the U.S. media hasn’t said much about it.

Meanwhile, 7,000 Africans are dying from AIDS and 3,500 are infected with HIV each day. It costs one dollar per day to pay for antiretroviral drugs to keep them alive. Thousands of orphans and a whole generation of Africans will be decimated by AIDS.

The AIDS initiative was supposed to focus on 14 nations and be appropriated $3 billion for 2004: a total of $15 billion in a span of five years. But as the proposal has wound its way through Congress and through the House Appropriations Committee, the $3 billion was pared down to $2 billion. Granted, the $15 billion promise could be fulfilled by allocating more money in coming years. However, such action is unlikely given the factors and interests vying for the same money. Surprisingly, the $2 billion allocated by the House Appropriations Committee was still more than the $1.7 billion the Bush administration requested from them for the program.

This is not a partisan issue, considering that Bush’s party controls both Congress and the House Appropriations Committee. Therefore, there is no excuse for the AIDS initiative to not be fully funded.

Bush’s campaign for the AIDS program was truly a landmark decision and the $2 billion appropriated for his initiative so far is still monumental. It is not just making pledges that warrants praise, but also fulfilling them. Lives are on the line and the American people and the world community should not ignore that Bush has not fully kept his monetary pledge.