Dr. Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance is complaining that Barack Obama’s cuts and holds in funds for international AIDS-relief amount to a $3.3 billion shortfall in U.S. support. According to the AP’s Tom Odula, Zeitz “singled out a reduced rate of funding for President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief (PEPFAR), a pet project of President George W. Bush that is credited with saving millions of lives.”
During the campaign Obama pledged to expand PEPFAR by $1 billion annually, but his submitted budget contains no such increase in funds. Zeitz isn’t alone in his concern:
Rolake Odetoyimbo, from the Pan African Treatment Movement in Nigeria, said Obama’s failure to live up to his commitment meant other countries were likely to spend less on the fight against AIDS.
“We are concerned that he is setting a bad example,” she said.
This isn’t a political football. Obama should live up to his pledges and build on the humanitarian work of Bush. Odula writes, “a shortfall in promised U.S. funding for HIV/AIDS projects would affect over 30 million people and means President Barack Obama risks reversing the gains made by his predecessor.”
In trying to highlight his deep commitment to the international community, Obama said during the campaign: “I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, ‘You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.’” It’s hard to imagine faces yearning more urgently than those of the 30 million men, women, and children in need of life-saving drugs.
Am I crazy or did the Associated Press just credit George W. Bush with saving millions of lives? It’s amazing how fast perspective brings clarity.