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Old 07-20-2004, 12:11 PM   #1
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Is America Losing It's 'Big Heart'?

Had this letter in my inbox this morning thought I would share ..cause it almost somes up how I feel too about how America has responded.. I've never doubted the whole of America has a big heart but the way Washington is responding to this is a whole other story that lights a fire under me..

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Is America Losing It's 'Big Heart'?
by Paul S. Zeitz
July 19, 2004

While visiting Bangkok this month to attend my third consecutive International AIDS Conference, I met a kind Thai woman who gently asked me where I was from. I responded that I was from America. She immediately declared with a deep enthusiasm, "America Has a Big Heart!" While I nodded in agreement, I really wanted to share with her my perplexed feelings about America's response to the AIDS epidemic.

I wanted to say to her that many Americans do have big hearts, but unfortunately a few powerful Americans have lost their way. Being witness to the actions of our leaders at the Bangkok AIDS conference, I was once again struck and surprised by the missed opportunities for America and wondered if we could ever regain our credibility.

Last year, the Bush administration announced a five-year, $15 billion initiative to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was a welcome - and long overdue - step forward in bringing American leadership, know-how and funding to bear on a disease that is now killing over 8,000 people each day. Unfortunately, I guess it's one step forward, and two steps back, as the quantity of funding we bring to the table is not matched by the quality of our policies and programs.

At his opening press conference in Bangkok, Ambassador Randall Tobias, Bush's AIDS czar and former CEO of Eli Lily pharmaceutical company, stated that America was ready to work together with everyone. He said he hoped that we could all stop fighting amongst ourselves and join together to start fighting AIDS. Sounds fine! However, actions speak louder than words, and "working together" does not seem to be this administration's operating style.

Earlier that day I had met with the head of the National AIDS Commission in a country where Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief was now in operation. This local leader reported that his government had never been consulted about joining the "President's Plan"; instead, his government was simply informed in January of this year that they were the beneficiaries of grants approved in and by "Washington." No consultation, no local perspectives, and no local ownership. This local leader and many others at Bangkok reported similar examples of American arrogance, but most were too fearful to talk on the record.

The lack of local consultation - and the Bush administration's adherence to rigid ideological canards like "abstinence-only" - has meant that the content of the PEPFAR funding rarely accords with local realities and needs. For example, AIDS statistics reported at Bangkok highlighted the enormous impact of AIDS on women, who now make up the majority of those infected in Africa. In response, there were calls for expanding women-controlled prevention approaches, such as microbicides, and other strategies to empower women to prevent infection by men who commonly have multiple partners and dominate sexual relationships.

In a bizarre and bewildering disconnect with the facts presented at Bangkok, Bush's team unashamedly and aggressively defended abstinence-only programs as the way forward for prevention programs. Not surprisingly, they didn't present any scientific evidence that these programs are effective in reducing HIV transmission, nor did they explain how abstinence-only programs will work for the young married women who are now most affected by the epidemic.

The conference theme of "Access for All" focused much of the attention on ensuring widespread access to lifesaving anti-retroviral AIDS medicines. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that only 440,000 people of the 6 million in immediate need in poor countries are currently getting treatment. To meet this need, WHO has developed a safe and effective process to screen and approve generic drugs, which cost less than a fourth of the cost of the brand name pharmaceuticals required by the United States. At the conference, scientific evidence was reported that confirmed that generically manufactured AIDS medicines are safe and effective and are being used by UNICEF, the World Bank, the Global Fund, the host countries for Bush's emergency plan, and leading non-governmental organizations like Doctors Without Borders.

Despite these scientific facts and reports of programmatic success, the Bush administration continues to undermine WHO and its drug approval process. It has insisted on setting up its own parallel "fast track approval process" at the FDA, and will not allow any U.S. funds to be used for the purchase of generic drugs until and unless they are proven "safe" by the FDA. When Tobias was asked how many branded or generic drugs have been approved by the new FDA process, the answer was "none."

At the last International AIDS Conference in 2002, there was a clear consensus among public-health experts that pooling technical and financial resources was necessary to create an effective global response to AIDS. Public, private, and civil society stakeholders joined together to create a multilateral partnership called the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Since then, the Global Fund has approved $3 billion in grants in 128 countries. Many of its initial grants have performed better than expected, and the demand for additional funding has risen accordingly.

Nonetheless, the Bush administration prefers a go-it-alone approach on par with our approach to Iraq and global warming. Despite calls for increased U.S. support for the Global Fund from Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, the leaders of some of the worst-affected countries and people living with AIDS, Tobias made it clear that this "was not going to happen." Needless to say, this go-it-alone attitude stunned delegates and exacerbated the existing undercurrent of anger and frustration about America's role in the world.

I'm proud of America's good heart, but with the current leadership in Washington, that heart is not beating is not beating in sync with the rest of the world. The cost is not only the good will and credibility of the United States with the rest of the world, but millions and millions of lives.

Dr. Paul S. Zeitz is the executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance.
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Old 07-20-2004, 02:51 PM   #2
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Old 07-20-2004, 06:52 PM   #3
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I haven't read most of it but what does come to mind is this thought...

So much time and money is spent looking for the cure for AIDS when it really is quite simple: if you don't want to be infected, stop fornicating!

(I will read the rest of the article later. Maybe I'm going to have to edit this post but don't know for sure just yet.)
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Old 07-20-2004, 06:57 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by BrownEyedBoy
So much time and money is spent looking for the cure for AIDS when it really is quite simple: if you don't want to be infected, stop fornicating!
Ah, if only it were that simple. Keep in mind that many other factors come into play regarding being infected with this disease.

Angela
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Old 07-20-2004, 07:12 PM   #5
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Normal

Quote:
Originally posted by BrownEyedBoy
So much time and money is spent looking for the cure for AIDS when it really is quite simple: if you don't want to be infected, stop fornicating!


wow. so simple. i can't believe the millions of people without any sort of access to education, information, etc. (let alone food, water and housing, but i digress) haven't figured this out yet. shame on them. [/sarcasm]
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Old 07-20-2004, 07:38 PM   #6
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I am aware of what you are trying to say SF. But really, some people really don't have an excuse.

I have heard of several cases, and my heart goes out to them, of women who are faithful to their husbands and still somehow end up infected. This means, that while they are home or out working being as best wife as possible their husbands are somewhere being an unfaithful bastard. I wish there were some sort of justice to go to for these people.

Those "unfaithful" people were in reality the target of my comment, but I do understand what you are saying that in those countries (as in mine in the most rural areas) people aren't aware of it.

It is very scary because soon these places will have a majority of children in their population.
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Old 07-20-2004, 07:47 PM   #7
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i'm glad to see you're more aware of the situation then you earlier let on. i'm sorry if i came across as a jackass. i just find this issue to be hugely important and tragic and it makes me sad when people/countries aren't willing to do more to help out - particularly my own country.
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Old 07-20-2004, 08:10 PM   #8
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That was my fault for not ellaborating on a comment...

Here in Honduras, my mother is an important part of this program that teaches people about AIDS and how to prevent it. It is really difficult to make people - the men for the most part - aware of how important fidelity is (what with the whole "macho" mentality that dominates here).

Also, my mother has actually gotten this one type of response from young people in really rural villages that they argue they have nothing to do, no television or anything else, there is but a small path that serves for reaching the village, and they still want to take another one of their pastimes away. That's a true response. (I hope I explained that well; english is my second language.)

Cheers
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Old 07-21-2004, 12:01 AM   #9
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the way women are treated in many third world countries is abolsutely disgusting ..it's the women and children who are hit hardest by this .. and I know there is alot of stigma and ahh beliefs that still go around villages in parts of Africa etc that still has to be overcome .. that education aspect of it is a piece but not the only piece to the puzzle.. as far as the drugs to fight HIV AIDS, TB , Malaria there is a another piece the ARVs and especially drugs that prevent mother to child transmission are so important ... as is infrastructure, conflict resolution, fair trade regulations, debt relief, the list can go on safe drinking water ,


what angers me is the U.S as he calls it "go it alone approach" not supporting the Global Fund as they should not accepting the WHO process for screening drugs when they have been proven safe.. maybe someone out there wants to explain to me how this U.S approach is so great .. because to me it stinks of rotten politics and it is costing people their lives.. it is not acceptable
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Old 07-21-2004, 10:25 PM   #10
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I love how the people of the United States are measured by the amount of $$$ the government gives.

Sorry, but, the people of the US give money and time and effort that is not counted because all too often it is only the governement that is looked at. Sorry, but my heart should not be measured by my governments pocketbook.
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Old 07-21-2004, 10:39 PM   #11
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Dread, aren't we the ones that are supposed to be leading the government to what is important to us? If our government should give more and the majority of us aren't demanding it or are just allowing this to happen - then isn't the majority of America losing it's heart? While I understand that you specifically have a big heart and are generous - does that mean that we collectively as a country are?
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Old 07-22-2004, 12:49 AM   #12
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I do not believe that the governement is responsible for demonstrating our heart. It is private citizens right to give or not, and I believe that organizations that want to get more from the governement fail to take into account how much Americans do give to charity.

I do NOT believe I have the right to ask the government to take more $$$ from people to give it to others. that does not show I have a big heart.
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Old 07-22-2004, 09:47 AM   #13
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I think American's have big hearts like mentioned in this article
Quote:
I'm proud of America's good heart, but with the current leadership in Washington, that heart is not beating is not beating in sync with the rest of the world
this is the point not weither individual citizens in the States have big hearts we know they do.. and save the money factor for a moment and even though this takes money think of it from the point of view of which has been time and time again proven to be the most effective way to help this emergency in Africa.. it's not the America go it alone strategy.. arguable even with it's growing pains it's the Global Fund, it's drugs approved by WHO . Now Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair, Paul Martin these characters seem to understand that at least support it Kofi Annan , Stephen Lewis even Colin Powell tellling this adminstration the same thing
and are for this multilateral effort the U.S seems to want to use their own solution .. The bottom line is that according to the goals set out the U.S is furthest behind in pulling their fair share and getting on board with the program .. and they have the most to give per GDP..
As Tony Blair said " If what is happening in Africa , was happening on any other continent we wouldnt have this emergency , things would be much different"
I don't think organization take forgranted at all how much individual citizens give in monetary terms thats not the question ..
in fact they count on the big heart americans do have to ask
their government to do what they believe is right
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Old 07-22-2004, 12:02 PM   #14
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Another example of "what have you done for me lately".
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Old 07-22-2004, 01:27 PM   #15
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how is it an example of what have you done for me lately??
this is more about a continent that over the years has constantly been ignored more then any other really...
or it could be a question of what have you done .. when you look at the trade rules and unsustainable debt that keeps holding countries back instead of giving them a chance to stand on their feet
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