March 15, 2002
"This issue is beyond partisanship," said Ronald V. Dellums, former California congressman and ex-chairperson of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). The world is in this fight together, said Dellums. "Either this pandemic gets us or we get it."
"This is not a partisan issue. This is a human issue," agreed Dr. Louis Sullivan, who is one of the 26 Bush administration appointees to the panel formed in 1995 to advise the White House and federal agencies about prevention, treatment and cure for AIDS. Sullivan is PACHA co-chairperson with Dr. Tom Coburn, former Oklahoma congressman. Dellums is one of the nine Clinton appointees invited to remain on the panel.
The first meeting of the council included comments from some members on the issue of abstinence education. Ingrid Duran, president of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, said condoms are proven to prevent HIV/AIDS, and comprehensive sexuality education -- which teaches abstinence and safe sex -- is better for youth than simply abstinence education.
None of the new PACHA members challenged Duran's assessment, but they probably will. At least four of the new members are vocal proponents of abstinence education, and one -- Rashida Jolley -- is an abstinence-education speaker.
Council members heard some sobering details of the HIV/AIDS epidemic:
HIV/AIDS "is a killer... that needs to be stopped," said Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, who swore in the council members for their four-year terms. The Bush administration is committed to the fight, budgeting a total of $12.9 billion for HIV/AIDS, including $255 million more for AIDS research, said Thompson. Already, he added, $597 million has been allocated for hard-hit communities, and $500 million has been pledged for a new Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria.
Thompson indicated that HHS is nearing completion of a management review of its AIDS programs, which should make the department "more accountable, better coordinated and more efficient" in running the programs.