Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama’s Hypocrisy and CNN’s Blind Spot Over AIDS

CNN reported on Monday that “The U.S. government’s response to the epidemic in South Africa began in 2003”.  That is actually not true.  According to the Guardian August 9th, 1999, a heated controversy started in 1997 between South Africa and the U.S. over “an act which the South African parliament passed in 1997, allowing local companies to produce cheap generic forms of the expensive drug-cocktails used to keep Aids under control.”

At the time, the U.S. monopoly prices on AIDS antivirals ran around $1000 per month, which was making them inaccessible to over 6 million infected individuals in South Africa alone.  Al Gore took it upon himself to make sure the South African plans to make cheap generics did not happen, by threatening them with severe trade sanctions if they dare.

As reported in the Baltimore Sun on June 22nd, 1999, the State Department issued a report saying the country is “making use of the full panoply of leverage in our arsenal.”   A few days earlier on June 19th, the Washington Post reported that a “senior Gore adviser acknowledged the vice president is in a delicate position, balancing the magnitude of the AIDS crisis in South Africa and the needs of U.S. companies. ‘Obviously the vice president’s got to stick up for the commercial interests of U.S. companies,’ the adviser said.”

And so it was that Gore, with Clinton backing him all the way, fought tooth and nail against South Africa’s attempts to save millions of lives.  If we calculate the effects of this roadblock on the entire African continent, the number of people who were adversely affected is many times greater.  But to calculate the full impact we must also consider those who were infected by the untreated individuals who otherwise would not have become infected. Therefore, the rate and extent to which AIDS has continued to spread across Africa would be significantly lower.  The ultimate human toll of Gore’s efforts is therefore staggering.  Gore may actually be responsible for more deaths than Hitler himself.

So it should come as no surprise that the Clinton-Gore presidential campaigns, Gore’s “Leadership 98” PAC, and other Clinton-Gore fundraising efforts, raised over $1 million dollars from Squibb, Glaxo-Wellcome, Pfizer, Genentech and the PhRMA throughout the 1990s.  This is of course business as usual.

Finally, in 2001 the Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla began producing generic versions of antiretroviral drugs that cost patients only a dollar a day.  But by stopping the South African effort, Gore had won Glaxo four extra years to rake in profits.  GSK financial reports claim sales of over $4 billion in AIDS antiviral drugs.  Incidentally, they were fined by the IRS in 2006 a record $3.4 billion for underpaying their taxes by $6 billion dollars.  Fortunately, the AZT patent expired in 2005.   But the fight was far from over.  The Guardian reports as recently as June 10th, 2010 that “Rich nations step up assault on generic Aids drugs – Moves by the US, the EU and Japan to strengthen intellectual property laws could limit the production of generic drugs that account for 80% of treatment worldwide.”

Unfortunately, the level of hypocrisy required for President Obama to take credit for the eradication of AIDS in Africa, is quite familiar.  And for CNN to pat the U.S. on the back and bury this inconvenient truth down the memory hole is also par for the course for the lapdog corporate media.  This story been remarkably well hidden from the public.  Democratic voters cannot assimilate into their world view that the Democrats would do something so awful.  People know there are good people in the world, so it doesn’t compute to most people that both the Republicans and Democrats could be so profoundly evil.

Ironically, it was George W. Bush who finally did something to reverse the trend.  In 2003 the Bush administration created PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which spent over $15 billion in five years to provide AIDS drugs to Africa.  There are many criticisms of PEPFAR.  For example at the beginning the program paid the exorbitant non-generic price for the drugs, even though by this time generics were available on the international market.  Therefore, there can be little doubt that PEPFAR was motivated, at least in part, by the desire to replace the profits lost by U.S. companies to the Indian generics with taxpayer money.  There was also an unpopular component of the program that diverted 6.7% of the money to preaching abstinence before marriage.  However, in 2005 PEPFAR changed their policy on generics, and in 2008 they eliminated recommendation that money be spent on abstinence.  These are not the only criticisms; however it is a fact that by 2008 the program had delivered anti-retroviral drugs to over one million infected individuals, free of charge.  By 2011 President Obama had reduced the budget by 22.5%.

It is quite plausible that had it been Bush instead of Gore who worked hard so that millions of people could die unnecessarily of AIDS, that the voters for the Democratic Party would be up in arms about it.  It would be a natural item for the long list of Bush’s evil deeds.  The Democrats’ rhetoric is more palatable to those of us on the Left, but their effect on society may ultimately be worse, in that Obama has taken so many of Bush’s right-wing policies and made them popular, or at best be completely ignored.  Obama got the good people of this country to talk about the “good wars” and the “good corporate bailouts” and the “good surveillance.”  Obama promised us transparency.  Well, a wolf in sheep’s clothing is anything but transparent.   A wolf in wolves clothing is arguably less dangerous.  Unfortunately, it’s not really a lesser of two evils that we want, rather in the spirit of what you don’t know can’t hurt you, what we really want is the perception of less evil.  Unfortunately, in this case what we don’t know is hurting us.

Gregory R. Grant earned a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1995.  He was professor in the Math department of Johns Hopkins Universtiy from 1996 to 1997.  He is currently a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in the Department of Genetics.  He can be reached at: ggrant@grant.org.

More articles by:
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Wild at Heart: Keeping Up With Margie Kidder
Roger Harris
Venezuela on the Eve of Presidential Elections: The US Empire Isn’t Sitting by Idly
Michael Slager
Criminalizing Victims: the Fate of Honduran Refugees 
John Laforge
Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste
Carlo Filice
The First “Fake News” Story (or, What the Serpent Would Have Said)
Dave Lindorff
Israel Crosses a Line as IDF Snipers Murder Unarmed Protesters in the Ghetto of Gaza
Gary Leupp
The McCain Cult
Robert Fantina
What’s Wrong With the United States?
Jill Richardson
The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish
David Orenstein
A Call to Secular Humanist Resistance
W. T. Whitney
The U.S. Role in Removing a Revolutionary and in Restoring War to Colombia
Rev. William Alberts
The Danger of Praying Truth to Power
Alan Macleod
A Primer on the Venezuelan Elections
John W. Whitehead
The Age of Petty Tyrannies
Franklin Lamb
Have Recent Events Sounded the Death Knell for Iran’s Regional Project?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail