Monday, June 18, 2007

Op-ed Trifecta

by Clara Presler

(New York City, June 18, 2007)--Three articles over the weekend cover a range of themes within the AIDS crisis—global aid, government sanctions, clean needle exchange—and converge in their call for increased government responsibility in the global effort to curb the epidemic.

Looking towards the fiscal 2008 appropriations bill, the New York Times calculates that the G8 pledge of $60 billion is actually a “retreat from previous goals”. Past G8 meetings have resulted in a declaration for universal access to treatment; this year, the group set its goal at treating only 5 million individuals in Africa. The editorial calls on the US government to increase its spending: “Congress should set the nation—and, by its example, the world—on course towards universal access to AIDS treatment by 2010.”

Considering whether the US should continue its sanctions against the Burmese military junta for its human rights abuses, or address the deterioration of its citizens’ health—and increase of HIV/AIDS prevalence—with humanitarian aid, the Boston Globe looks at how the Burmese government has spent its own money. While the rulers claim that there is not money to address health care, they have spent extravagant amounts on buildings, weapons, and nuclear agreements. The editorial says enough is enough: “Increases in humanitarian assistance are clearly necessary—but so are increases in political pressure…Now is not the time to reward the generals for their brutality [and] mismanagement…Bush is right to continue sanctions against the generals, and Congress should support this position.”

On the domestic front, the Chicago Tribune looks at a bill in the House of Representatives that would let the people of Washington, DC decide whether to sponsor clean needle programs. At the moment, DC cannot use their own local funds for such programs; no federal funds can go to them either. Such regulations cost money and lives; a sterile syringe costs a quarter, while supporting someone with AIDS costs about $25,000 a year. Numerous scientific institutions have affirmed that needle-exchange programs work without negative consequences. The commentary has a message for Congress—look at the evidence: “Restrictions on the sale and possession of injecting equipment, like the funding bans, make it harder for drug users to take basic self-preservation measures. If you like throwing away money, preventing addicts from getting access to sterile syringes is an excellent strategy. If you like squandering lives, it’s even better.”

Lately, much celebration has been paid to the Bush administration for pledging more money to PEPFAR. These 3 articles look beyond those headlines towards sustainability. Raising the bar, they call for an increase of governmental responsibility. Here are three ways that the US government can begin to meet the bar, both domestically and internationally.

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