Unlikely Allies Influenced U.S. President Bush to Shift Course on AIDS Relief
January 30, 2003
Christian evangelicals and liberal activists joined forces to help persuade President Bush to change his administration's policy on the international AIDS crisis, a turnabout he announced Tuesday night in his State of the Union address.Adapted from:
Administration officials said the AIDS crisis had become a major cause for evangelical Christians, many of whom are affiliated with missions in Africa. Conservative politicians' concern about the epidemic has risen over the past year as they became convinced that AIDS in the developing world is a major humanitarian crisis. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who spends part of each year in Africa as a medical missionary to AIDS patients, raised the issue with Bush last year in a White House meeting. Outgoing Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill and Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans, who traveled to Africa last year, also helped convince Bush of the scale of the crisis.
Several administration officials have become friends with Bono, the lead singer of U2, who said in an interview that Bush's announcement shows how the world has changed. "If you think back just six months or a year," he remarked, "conservatives, especially religious conservatives, were very skeptical about this, and we had to explain that if you can't get the drugs, why would you test, and if you don't get people testing, we can't control the virus. All these points have sunk in."
Administration officials deny that politics was a major reason for the AIDS initiative, although they admit there could be beneficial ripple effects, burnishing the United State's image abroad. Specialists suggest that the policy change came as the administration saw mounting evidence that AIDS treatment can work in Africa.
01.30.03; Mike Allen; Paul Blustein