Commentary & Opinion

Editorials Respond to PEPFAR Reauthorization

August 1, 2008

President Bush on Wednesday signed into law legislation (HR 5501) that reauthorizes the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief at $48 billion through 2013. Two newspapers have published editorials in response to the bill. Summaries appear below.

  • New York Times: Bush can be "justifiably proud of his administration's leadership in ramping up its commitments to the global efforts to control AIDS over the past five years and in proposing to do more in the next five." The "only hitch is whether the money will actually materialize in the form of appropriations," the editorial says, adding, "The signs in Congress are not good." The $48 billion called for in the PEPFAR reauthorization bill "implies appropriations of roughly $9 billion to $10 billion a year," the editorial says, adding, "But advocacy groups say the amounts emerging from Congressional appropriations committees for fiscal year 2009 will be little more than half of that." In addition, a report released this week by the Black AIDS Institute has "come up with a startling insight into the AIDS epidemic in this country by contrasting it with the global epidemic," according to the editorial. The Bush administration has not "shown the same zeal to control this domestic tragedy that it has shown in the global campaign," the editorial says, concluding, "Surely we should be doing as much to prevent the spread of the AIDS virus in our own communities as we are trying to do abroad" (New York Times, 8/1).

  • San Diego Union-Tribune: Bush "cemented his own legacy" by signing the bill, a Union-Tribune editorial says, adding that PEPFAR is "saving literally millions of lives, and it will stand as [Bush's] greatest bipartisan foreign policy achievement." With "less than six months remaining in the Bush presidency, the rest of his legacy remains, at best, cloudy," the editorial says, concluding, "But the impressive results of his battle against the scourge of AIDS cannot be denied. Its impact, in real lives saved, will be felt for many years to come" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/1).

In related news, the AP/ on Thursday examined how the PEPFAR reauthorization bill "sets a goal of treating more than the two million patient target set in 2003, but how much more isn't clear." When signing the bill, Bush said, "With this funding, we will support treatment for at least three million people." However, the "bill itself doesn't set a specific target," according to the AP/ Early versions of the bill that passed the House included a specific target of treating at least three million people by 2013, but the target was removed in the final version. The bill now says that U.S. policy is to increase the number of people receiving treatment beyond the original goal of two million. According to the U.S. State Department, 1.7 million people received treatment as of March 31, and the original bill's target of reaching two million with treatment will be met by December (Euphrat, AP/, 7/31).

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