Senate Democrats recently proposed The Africa Famine Relief Act that gives $900 million for emergency relief in Africa, of which $100 million is directed towards HIV/AIDS programs. The Act was introduced by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), and includes $600 million in food aid and $200 million for disaster assistance.
President Bush’s recent plan to help Africa included relaxed trade rules and an increase in development aid. However, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who also played a part in introducing this bill, stated that the Bush administration’s proposals do not address the immediate emergency needs due to the famine. According to the Associated Press, Leahy is frustrated that the administration keeps suggesting proposals to help Africa, but “it looks like Africa is still waiting for the check.”
While $100 million is a step in the right direction to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, it is not nearly enough to address the massive increase in the number of AIDS cases as well as the increase in women contracting the virus in Africa. The region most affected by the epidemic is sub-Saharan Africa, which has 28.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS, which is about 75 percent of the total cases in the world. The UN reports that AIDS is the main cause of massive food shortages in the region, which affect more than 14 million people. The deaths of more than six million agricultural workers in combination with severe drought in the region have led to dire need for emergency food relief and a long-term plan to fight the AIDS epidemic, according to Reuters. Highly populous countries such as India and China are also at risk for a rapid spread of the disease. The UN estimates that the current one million cases in China could reach 10 million by 2010. Almost four million people are living with HIV/AIDS in India, which has the second-highest number of cases in the world.
Despite speaking in favor of increased funding for HIV-prevention programs in a World AIDS Day statement, President Bush has actually worked to downplay the importance of condom use to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. Every prominent medical and health organization in the US agrees that proper condom use is imperative to reducing the risk of infection by HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. However, the Bush administration has gone so far as to remove fact sheets from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web site discussing the effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy. Further, the Bush Administration argued at the recent UN population conference that, despite scientific evidence to the contrary, promoting condom use, even in HIV prevention programs, should be downplayed because it would encourage adolescent sexual behavior.