Bush is leaving on a 5-nation tour of Africa today. He is more popular in some of the 5 countries he will be visiting than he is in the US because of the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar), a program that has saved the lives of a million or more people with HIV. Pepfar was started in 2004 at the urging of Colin Powell and the CIA who thought the Aids epidemic was a national security issue because it would kill a huge number of working age adults.
Here is what some Africans and people who work in Africa have to say about him and the Pepfar program:
"This is the best thing that ever happened to the poor people I work with. It's one of the few times I've seen US government money really reach down to the poorest of the poor. It's kept a hell of a lot of people alive."--Edward Phillips, a Catholic priest who distributes HIV medicine in Nairobi.
"I look at all the blood this man has on his hands in Iraq and I can't quite believe myself but I would say it's a bold experiment from the last people in the world I would expect to do it, and it is saving a lot of lives. To intervene on such a scale and make such a difference is huge."--Dr. Francois Venter, head of the HIV Clinicians Society in South Africa.
"The scale of the money coming in has really changed everything. If someone in a household has HIV it used to be we only focused on them. Now we look at the health of everyone in the household because if a parent has HIV that has implications for their ability to provide and care for their children. We can now treat the children for other diseases because that is a consequence of HIV in the household." --Anne Smith, head of CHF in Kigali.
"Then they said they could make us well, they have these drugs. So I got tested and I have the drugs. George Bush has helped us live."--Linda, a prostitute in Kigalia.
The program has come under attack because of it'e emphasis on abstinence and because of the use of religious organizations in the program, but it is clear from the article I read in the Guardian, where I got the information for this entry, that Pepfar is working.
Finally, something nice I can say about Bush. And yes I do know he didn't do any of this for humanitarian reasons, something he knows nothing about. And I also know it's not a perfect program, but it is something.