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There Is Another Choice

There Is Another Choice


For the first two years of his tenure it looked like President Bush'who never publicly mentioned AIDS while governor of Texas' was all conservative with little compassion when it came to the disease. On his first day in office he reinstated the ban on U.S. funding for international groups that support abortions, thus indirectly crippling many anti-HIV efforts abroad. Beginning in 2001 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began auditing HIV prevention groups that receive Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding for violating the notorious 'no promo homo' Jesse Helms amendment, which prevents gay sex from being 'promoted or encouraged' in federally funded AIDS education and prevention materials. And though the 2001 report from then'surgeon general David Satcher that found no evidence that abstinence-only sex education was effective, the Administration (with the notable exception of a defiant Colin Powell) has crusaded against condoms and ramped up abstinence-only sex-education spending to $135 million a year. Then, in his January 2003 State of the Union address, the president surprised and delighted HIV activists by pledging $15 billion in U.S. funding to combat AIDS internationally over the subsequent five years. However, though Bush authorized $3 billion in fiscal year 2004 funding, he requested only $2 billion. In November, Congress defied the president by voting for $2.4 billion. And Bush has infuriated global leaders by refusing to give more than $200 million a year to the U.N. Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Further calling Bush's sincerity into question is what many consider a blind eye to domestic concerns. He has requested flat funding for the Ryan White Act three years running and has left the waiting list'ridden AIDS Drug Assistance Program with what analysts say is a nearly $300 million shortfall. Never mind that Bush appointed the first ever openly gay AIDS czar (eventually replacing him with another gay man); his administration continues to preside over the congressional persecution of U.S. researchers who study gay sex practices. Rep. Henry Waxman has called the far-right hit list of 157 scientists who are currently under the conservative microscope 'scientific McCarthyism.' And unlike the major Democratic candidates for president, Bush has no comprehensive health plan as of yet, instead requesting $89 billion over 10 years to help a mere 4 million lower-income Americans buy health insurance with the aid of tax credits. This will do little for HIVers, leave the country vulnerable to ever-increasing premiums, and provide no shelter from the ever-looming threat of health insurance cost-sharing.

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Benjamin Ryan