Thursday, February 02, 2006

SOTU on HIV/AIDS

The President's State of the Union Address on Tuesday included several references to HIV/AIDS. The practice of pundits and, these days, bloggers is to look for the code within the message to find out what is really being said. Here's what President Bush said:

To overcome dangers in our world, we must also take the offensive by encouraging
economic progress, and fighting disease, and spreading hope in hopeless lands. Isolationism would not only tie our hands in fighting enemies, it would keep us from helping our friends in desperate need. We show compassion abroad because Americans believe in the God-given dignity and worth of a villager with HIV/AIDS, or an infant with malaria, or a refugee fleeing genocide, or a young girl sold into slavery. We also show compassion abroad because regions overwhelmed by poverty, corruption, and despair are sources of terrorism, and organized crime, and human trafficking, and the drug trade.

In recent years, you and I have taken unprecedented action to fight AIDS and malaria, expand the education of girls, and reward developing nations that are moving forward with economic and political reform. For people everywhere, the United States is a partner for a better life. Short-changing these efforts would increase the suffering and chaos of our world, undercut our long-term security, and dull the conscience of our country. I urge members of Congress to serve the interests of America by showing the compassion of America.

. . .

A hopeful society acts boldly to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS, which can be prevented, and treated, and defeated. More than a million Americans live with HIV, and half of all AIDS cases occur among African Americans. I ask Congress to reform and reauthorize the Ryan White Act, and provide new funding to states, so we end the waiting lists for AIDS medicines in America. (Applause.) We will also lead a nationwide effort, working closely with African American churches and faith-based groups, to deliver rapid HIV tests to millions, end the stigma of AIDS, and come closer to the day when there are no new infections in America. (Applause.)

The early passages seem more self-congratulation (and defense) than policy proposal, but the last paragraphs contains some red meat for the HIV/AIDS community. It is backed up with a whole fact sheet from the White House that outlines what these words mean to the President and his administration. The initiatives include:

  • Taking action against HIV/AIDS at home
  • A plan to meet key domestic HIV/AIDS challenges
  • Taking action against HIV/AIDS abroad

That the President addressed HIV/AIDS in the U.S. is significant, since all of his attention has been focused, it seems, on Africa and other parts of the world. While that has gone on, we've fallen behind in funding for services, prevention, and medications. We've also lost ground on policy in several areas. Now that we have his attention (so to speak), let's hope that we don't regret it.

[Hat tip to Reader C for the fact sheet.]

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