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Bush/Reagan not the only ones with a subpar track record
Apr 13, 2007

Dear Dr. Bob,

I have been reading your forum for a few years now, on and off. I find your approach peoples concerns about transmission very helpful and informative, and I thank you for that. I will agree that more has to be done by ALL to ensure that this world receives the proper education and funding to eradicate this pandemic. I will not, however agree with your views that ONLY Republicans have hindered the efforts of the rest of the country to fight this problem. I understand your motivation for using this forum as a platform for your political opinions, but they are just that, opinions. Bush has donated money and implemented HIV/AIDS programs as well. Obviously, not up to the standards of those infected, or anyones for that matter....but he hasn't sat back and done nothing. I agree, that most Republicans take a more conservative view. This needs to be changed. But, in response to your trashing of former Republican presidents, Democrats haven't exactly changed the face of this pandemic either. Bill Clinton signed into law the HIV Immigration Ban and Travel Restrictions in 1993, authorizing the deportation of HIV-infected non US citizens, and imposing a ten-day limit on US travel for HIV+ foreign nationals - which is why these conferences are no longer held in the US. Clinton also fired his Surgeon General, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who suggested that masturbation be discussed as a safe sex alternative, in response to a question at a World AIDS Day event held the United Nations. Clinton also neglected the global fight against AIDS, and failed to direct adequate resources, allocating a paltry $100 million for Africa's AIDS orphans. Since leaving the White House, however, Clinton has suggested the US spend $2.5 billion to fight AIDS internationally - something the Clinton Administration never did in eight budgets submitted to Congress, despite huge surpluses. Finally, Clinton refused to lift the federal funding ban for clean needle exchange programs, despite overwhelming evidence that these programs are highly effective in reducing HIV transmission among injection drug users and their partners. This is all documented, and common fact. So I will agree, Republicans definetely have a long way to go in terms of being more realistic about HIV/AIDS, but so do democrats. Thank you.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

In general, I agree with you and I, in fact did criticized Clinton for not supporting needle-exchange programs while he was President. However, it is worth noting that he was dealing with a Republican Congress that was not supportive of many of his ideas. Remember his attempts to allow gays to serve openly in the military or his attempts at universal health care??? The reason I am not faulting him now is that since leaving office, he has made HIV/AIDS a primary focus of his philanthropic foundation. He's negotiated steep discounts for HIV medications for developing nations, supported vaccine research, spoken at International AIDS Conferences and admitted his mistakes in not doing more while he was President. (See below.) The bottom line is that we all need to do more. Dubya's science-phobic, faith-based decision making is hindering efforts, like Clinton's or the Gates Foundation's efforts to turn the tide on this scourge.

Dr. Bob

Clinton Pledges Long-Term Commitment to Fight Against HIV/AIDS, Addresses PEPFAR, Other Issues

August 16, 2006

Former President Clinton on Tuesday at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto said he will continue to combat HIV/AIDS for the rest of his life or until the pandemic is controlled, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/16). "I can't conceive of anything that would divert me from this commitment, short of a life-threatening illness or success (in defeating HIV/AIDS)," Clinton said. Clinton used the session to address several issues related to HIV/AIDS and efforts to fight the disease worldwide.

Abstinence, Sex Worker Pledge During this session, Clinton spoke out against HIV prevention programs that focus solely on abstinence, saying, "I think that abstinence-only is an error" (Ubelacker, CP/CBC News, 8/15). Clinton also challenged the U.S. policy limiting funds to HIV/AIDS programs that pledge their opposition to commercial sex work (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/16). The Bush administration in June 2005 notified U.S. organizations providing HIV/AIDS-related services in other countries that they must sign the pledge to be considered for federal funding. The policy stems from two 2003 laws, including an amendment to legislation (HR 1298) authorizing the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief that prohibits funds from going to any group or organization that does not have a policy "explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/19). "I don't see how you can go into a country with a lot of sex workers and not deal with sex workers," Clinton said, adding, "We should say, 'We disapprove of prostitution. Here's the money. Let's go save some lives'" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/16). He also reiterated his call for empowering women by providing them with tools, such as microbicides, to protect themselves from HIV transmission. "Empowering women to protect themselves seems so elemental, and yet when I hear people pontificating against AIDS and acting as if we can do everything through abstinence, I think they don't know what most women are up against in too many parts of the world today," Clinton said (CP/CBC News, 8/15).

Needle-Exchange, Circumcision, Vaccine On the issue of needle-exchange programs to prevent the spread of HIV among injection drug users, Clinton said he regretted his decision not to support the programs while he was president. "I was wrong," he said, adding, "The evidence shows that it doesn't lead to increased drug usage" (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 8/15). Clinton also called for routine HIV testing in areas highly affected by HIV/AIDS, criticized drug companies for charging too much for antiretroviral drugs, said that politicians who misspend money for HIV/AIDS should be imprisoned, and urged public health officials to follow through on evidence that male circumcision might prevent HIV transmission among men (Picard, Globe and Mail, 8/16). He said the world needs to address cultural taboos regarding circumcision if it is found to be an effective HIV prevention tool. "Should this be shown to be effective, we will have another means to prevent the spread of the disease and to save lives, and we will have a big job to do," he said (Boseley, Guardian, 8/16). Clinton also urged researchers to continue searching for an HIV vaccine. U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis, who introduced Clinton, said, "The quest for [an HIV] vaccine is the single most important quest in the world" (Ingham, AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/15). Clinton praised Lewis for his efforts to combat the epidemic, saying, "I thank him for a lifetime of public service" (CP/CBC News, 8/15). He also praised Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, who is stepping down from his position this year, saying, "Countless people are alive today because of Richard's work" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/16).

why is it "W"s fault? Apr 5, 2007

since HIV/AIDS has been around for 25 years (my son was an early casualty) WHY blame the President .. puleeze .. that's as bad as blaming it all on Reagan .. this is NOT a political forum .. give it a break !

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

Why is Dubya at fault for hampering efforts to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS???? Well, let me give you some examples:

1. Programs to prevent the spread of HIV are unquestionably a crucial component of the long-term fight. Yet, Dubya (and the last Republican Congress) specified that only 20% of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) could be spent on prevention. Even more egregious is the restriction that one third of that money had to be used to promote abstinence until marriage!!!! Consequently, more money has been spent in that area than on any other prevention activities, including the distribution of condoms and blocking mother-to-child transmission!!!! This is not only unscientific, it's shamefully immoral!

2. Another anti-science restriction forbids the use of taxpayer money to provide clean needles to injecting drug users.

3. Yet another restriction requires that all antiretroviral medications be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. This blocks the use of more inexpensive generic antiretrovirals, even those approved by the World Health Organization!

Despite the above, your comment about Reagan is a good one. The Centers for Disease Control reported the first case of AIDS in June 1981 during Reagan's Presidency. However, he blatantly ignored the looming crisis, preferring to act like an ostrich with his head stuck in the sand and did not even publicly utter the word AIDS until September 1985! Had he shown some degree of compassion or leadership, perhaps your son and so many other sons, daughters, husbands, wives and lovers would not be "casualties!"

So I agree with you. We shouldn't just blame Dubya. I stand corrected. Reagan must share the infamy!

Dr. Bob


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