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FIRST-PERSON: AIDS crisis in Africa meets compassionate conservatism

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (BP)–Africa is the continent that has suffered the blunt force of the AIDS pandemic. Hardest hit with disease are the women and children of Africa. Finally, the “compassionate conservatism” of President George Bush will lead the international community in funding initiatives which hopefully will bring relief to all in the continent who suffer from AIDS.

Bush’s previous reluctance to commit American tax dollars for AIDS relief to Africa brought consternation of many AIDS activists. But according to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci of the Bush administration, the president has always been concerned about the problem of AIDS and Fauci had been charged with the duty of finding ways to best channel American tax dollars into AIDS relief to Africa.

To ensure the integrity of dispensing the funds, and that those who need the help actually receive it, the U.S. government will maintain control over the funds rather than submitting them to the multilateral Global Fund to Fight AIDS.

The decision to maintain control over these AIDS funds does not please everyone in the international community involved in relief to African victims of AIDS.

Still, sight must not be lost on the most important detail of this policy: It is money that if spent now that will save lives now, and will save millions of dollars later.

The promise of $10 billion dollars to provide a wide range of services for AIDS victims does, however, please some vocal activists. The size of the fund and the fact that the president made the announcement during the State of the Union address is significant. Clearly a paradigm shift, this should forestall any further criticism of his former stance on dispersing large allotments of money for AIDS research and treatment.

To bolster the generous move of the president, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who has spent many hours in Africa offering relief to sufferers of AIDS, knows firsthand of their needs. No doubt Frist will speak firsthand to the plight of Africans, and those suffering from this dreaded disease can now look forward to some of the help they have long needed.

Even though Congress must act before the $10 billion dollars is allotted, any delay could cause needless suffering for the millions whose lot it now is to bear the catastrophe of the AIDS pandemic.

The shift in the AIDS funding for Africa is yet another welcome manifestation of Bush’s policy of “compassionate conservatism.”
Terriel R. Byrd, Ph.D., is assistant professor of religion and director of urban ministries studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, West Palm Beach, Fla.

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  • Terriel Byrd