Radical media, politics and culture.

"A Spine for Senator Specter, More BS From Bush"

Oread Daily writes:

"A Spine for Senator Specter, More BS From Bush"
Oread Daily

Yesterday, on the morning before World AIDS Day, AIDS activists from ACT UP Philadelphia delivered a giant spine to the home of Senator Arlen Specter to demand that he find the integrity and strength to stand up to the Bush Administration’s attacks on AIDS prevention programs as well as funding cuts against the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

“Arlen Specter talks a great talk about global AIDS, but last week he caved in to pressure from the Bush Administration and cut funding for the Global AIDS Fund,” said ACT UP’s Jose DeMarco. “This cowardly cut happened during the Global Fund’s Board meeting in Tanzania, where African heads of state and people with AIDS from all over the world were insisting that a new round of grants for life-saving programs be launched.”The Bush Administration has consistently donated far less than the US fair share of the Global Fund's needed budget, which brought the Global Fund to the brink of closing its doors. At the Global Fund's Board meeting in Tanzania Nov. 18-19, Bush Health Secretary Tommy Thompson attempted to cancel a round of grants coming due in 2005. At the same time, Senator Specter and Representative Kolbe (R, Tucson AZ), under pressure from the White House, slashed funding from the Health and Humans Services and Foreign
Operations Budget lines.

Specter is the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Appropriations committee. In addition to cuts to the Global Fund, Specter voted to cut funding for lifesaving domestic AIDS programs that provide access to medicines and other direct services for thousands of low-income Americans with HIV. “We are bringing Senator Specter a new spine because he seems to have
misplaced his. With so much at stake, how can Senator Specter’s turn his back on millions of people living and dying with AIDS?” demands Allison Dinsmore from ACT UP. “With a new backbone, maybe Specter will be able to keep his promises and stand up to the Bush Administration’s ideological attacks on effective HIV prevention and the White House attempts to kill the Global AIDS Fund.”

Specter has also fought for increased funding for disproven, ineffective "abstinence only" prevention programs that preach chastity as HIV prevention, and deny people access to medically accurate, age appropriate information about condoms.

"Senator Specter has been one of the top proponents of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs — faith-based patronage that earmarks over a million dollars to primarily religious-based programs in
Pennsylvania to miseducate vulnerable youth," reports Minni Katz from ACT UP. “This amounts to a shameless election-year slush fund for the religious right, while promoting discredited policies that forbid honest discussion of HIV prevention."

In his 2003 State of the Union speech, President Bush said to broad acclaim that he'd ask Congress to commit $15 billion, including $10 billion in new money, over five years to fight AIDS in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. After making his commitment, Bush immediately sought a modest $1.9 billion, much of it existing funds shuffled from one budget line to another. In 2004, Congress ponied up about $2 billion, still $1 billion short of the goal. The president's request for 2005 also fell hundreds of millions of dollars short.

The Bush Administration has refused to cooperate with the Global Fund, a non-profit that works with grassroots organizations in poor countries afflicted by AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. The Global Fund, which reaches 128 countries, requires countries to develop comprehensive plans to combat AIDS/HIV, including prevention as well as treatment. Last month, the Global Fund announced its fifth round of grants, totaling $2.7 billion.

The US insists on a haphazard spending approach instead to just 15 countries. US AIDS funding isn't tied to infection rates or to meeting a recipient country's needs. To qualify for U.S. funding, the Bush administration requires that target nations open their economies to international trade and take other actions that have nothing to do with fighting AIDS. Even worse, the US money goes to the ruling elites in these countries with virtually no attempt to track whether the money is used to treat or prevent HIV/AIDS.

In addition, the Bush policy requires use of expensive, brand-name, American-made drugs, rather than let poor countries stretch their money by buying cheaper generics. Three years after Bush made his pledge, the U.S. program has helped fewer than 100,000 of the world's 42 million people with HIV/AIDS.

While U.S. officials say they cooperate with the Global Fund, the outreach has been tepid: Of $2.8 billion in AIDS money Bush sought for 2005, only $400 million was slated for the Global Fund. Yet when the Bush administration cites the number of countries it has helped, it includes figures that reflect the Global Fund's success.

[Sources: Advocate, Act Up/ Philadelphia, AIDSmeds.com, Denver Post. Subscribe to the Oread Daily here.
Contact the Oread Daily at here.]