Bush vs. Africa’s Women

by YIFAT SUSSKIND

President Bush headed home on Thursday from his five-day, five-country tour of Africa. Not since Thanksgiving 2003, when he showed up at the Baghdad Airport with a fake turkey for US troops have we seen such saccharine Presidential photo ops. And most of the media can’t get enough. The New York Times describes Bush in Africa as "a little like Santa Claus, a benevolent figure from another land handing out gifts – American foreign aid – and generating smiles wherever he goes."

Among the goodies that Bush offered Africans this week was renewal of his flagship international AIDS initiative, PEPFAR. Named for none other than Bush himself, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is hardly a benevolent gift. Like all US aid, it comes with strings attached. To put it bluntly, Bush’s AIDS program prioritizes Christian fundamentalist dogma over African lives.

PEPFAR poses a particular danger to African women, who were a majority of the 1.7 million sub-Saharan Africans infected with HIV last year. With the program set to expire in 2008, Bush made use of images of HIV-positive African babies to demand that federal AIDS policy continue to devote one-third of all AIDS prevention funding to programs that promote abstinence.

This is Bush’s ill-conceived "ABC" strategy: "Abstain, Be faithful, use Condoms." But abstinence is not a choice for women who are raped or coerced into sex, like the millions of women in the war-zones of Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, and Congo. Faithfulness is irrelevant for women whose husbands have multiple partners (for African women, marriage is actually a risk factor for contracting HIV). And condoms depend on men’s willingness to use them and both partners’ willingness to forgo having children. Of course, promoting condoms at least acknowledges a basic fact that the rest of Bush’s strategy denies, namely, that people have sex. Maybe that’s why Bush considers condoms to be a "last resort" in the fight against AIDS.

At the end of 2007, both the World Health Organization and UNAIDS released reports that show that AIDS is still ravaging Africa, but that as programs in Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya show, the spread of the disease can be controlled with the right policies. In the fantasy world of Christian fundamentalists, AIDS prevention programs are an opportunity to stamp out extra-marital sex. In the real world, prevention programs need to build on what we know works: education and access to condoms within a framework that promotes women’s rights to negotiate sex and make the best choices for their well-being.

After another 1.6 million AIDS deaths in sub-Saharan Africa last year, the Bush Administration still shamelessly prioritizes pharmaceutical industry profits over ensuring people’s access to medicine. Patents that allow US drug companies to control the manufacture and sale of AIDS drugs bar countries in Africa (home to more than two-thirds of people with AIDS) from providing cheaper, generic alternatives. In 2006, PEPFAR purchased almost 75 percent of its anti-retroviral drugs from brand name manufacturers, even though far cheaper generic equivalents are available.

Bush’s trip to Africa was supposed to reinforce his legacy of "compassionate conservatism." But it feels like a very long time ago-before Bush killed a million Iraqis, before he authorized torture, before he condemned so many more families at home and abroad to poverty-that "compassionate conservatism" had any cachet at all. In fact, Bush’s AIDS initiative has been a lot like his presidency: dogmatic, corporate-driven, and self-serving.

YIFAT SUSSKIND is communications director of MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization. She is the author of a book on US foreign policy and women’s human rights and a report on US culpability for violence against women in Iraq, both forthcoming.



 


 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 03, 2015
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Greg Fulton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana