Washington Post reporter David Brown found "rage and panic" at a recent meeting of AIDS activists in Vienna, placed on page A-10 of Thursday's paper:
The rage is directed at the Obama administration, which many activists say is reneging on a commitment to continue big annual increases in global AIDS spending. The panic arises from the knowledge that in some African countries, patients who want antiretroviral treatment are being turned away and will soon start dying.
Some activists pine for former president George W. Bush, who launched a much-praised multibillion-dollar fund to fight AIDS around the world. But now, in the eyes of many, the U.S. government has replaced the pharmaceutical industry as the main impediment to progress.
The headline on the piece is nondescript, mentioning neither president: "Rage, panic in AIDS fight: Activists fear a lack of funding will force people to be turned away from help and accuse the U.S. of reneging on pledges."
Brown began with how the AIDS picture improved in those supposedly dreadful eight years of Bush:
Ten years ago, many experts thought you couldn't bring antiretroviral therapy to people with AIDS in poor countries. The drugs cost too much, there weren't enough doctors, the patients wouldn't take the medicines correctly, and the risk of creating a resistant virus was too high.
None of that turned out to be true. About 5.2 million people with HIV infections are on lifesaving treatment in low- and middle-income countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, antiretroviral therapy, much of it paid for by the U.S. government, is resurrecting whole communities.
But the world is facing a potentially more intractable problem: the price of success.
There's barely enough money to pay for people whose treatment is underway and who will need it for a lifetime. There isn't enough to start treatment for about 5 million more who urgently need it.
It should be stated that AIDS activists can easily mount a soapbox against anyone from the moral high ground, begging for help for people dying from a terrible disease. But it should also be stated that most of the international aid community and the news media rarely consider placing any responsibility for contracting AIDS infection on the behaviors of the infected. With a broad brush, they are absolved of any responsibility, regardless of the moral circumstances.
It can also be stated that it's unfair for global activists to rage against the United States when it has been the U.S. that has been the primary funder, when other countries have not done as much. This is just an example of how President Bush never seemed to get any credit for policies that liberals would ardently support if there weren't political points to be scored. Here are the numbers Brown provided:
The United Nations agency UNAIDS estimates that $23.6 billion was needed to address the epidemic in low- and middle-income countries last year. Yet only $15.9 billion was available from all sources, public and private. The U.S. government provided 27 percent of that money, mostly through PEPFAR, which Bush started in 2003 with a then-staggering commitment to spend $15 billion on prevention and treatment over five years.
The United States has been by far the biggest donor of money for AIDS treatment to the world's poor, last year providing 58 percent of the $7.6 billion given by governments. Britain, a distant second, gave 10 percent of the total. Japan, with the world's third-largest economy, contributed 2 percent.
Brown quotes several Obama officials in their defense, including Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of the president's chief of staff, who blandly states that stopping HIV infections requires "improving their overall health and the health systems around them." Brown didn't reproduce what offended Emanuel: stickers at the conference that blared "Obama's AIDS plan. Take a Number, Wait to Die."