FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.



 


 

February 10, 2016
Eoin Higgins
Clinton and the Democratic Establishment: the Ties That Bind
Fred Nagel
The Role of Legitimacy in Social Change
Jeffrey St. Clair
Why Bernie Still Won’t Win
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Aleppo Gamble Pays Off
Chris Martenson
The Return of Crisis: Everywhere Banks are in Deep Trouble
Ramzy Baroud
Next Onslaught in Gaza: Why the Status Quo Is a Precursor for War
Sheldon Richman
End, Don’t Extend, Draft Registration
Benjamin Willis
Obama in Havana
Jack Smith
Obama Intensifies Wars and Threats of War
Rob Hager
How Hillary Clinton Co-opted the Term “Progressive”
Mark Boothroyd
Syria: Peace Talks Collapse, Aleppo Encircled, Disaster Looms
Lawrence Ware
If You Hate Cam Newton, It’s Probably Because He’s Black
Jesse Jackson
Starving Government Creates Disasters Like Flint
Bill Laurance
A Last Chance for the World’s Forests?
Gary Corseri
ABC’s of the US Empire
Frances Madeson
The Pain of the Earth: an Interview With Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Binoy Kampmark
The New Hampshire Distortion: The Primaries Begin
Andrew Raposa
Portugal: Europe’s Weak Link?
Wahid Azal
Dugin’s Occult Fascism and the Hijacking of Left Anti-Imperialism and Muslim Anti-Salafism
February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail