AIDS help the right thing to do

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 29, 2003

President Bush has a lot on his mind these days. From the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq to economy and his tax cut package to the continuing war against global terrorism, he is being pulled in many directions.

As such, it’s amazing and welcome that he found the time Tuesday to focus attention on the AIDS epidemic that is plaguing Africa and the Caribbean.

The president gave a speech Tuesday on combating AIDS worldwide in an attempt to give his $15 billion global AIDS initiative a shove on Capitol Hill. Bush spokesman Air Fleisher said his boss feels &uot;an absolute moral calling…to helping those in need…&uot;

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A House committee passed legislation earlier this month that closely reflects what Bush wants. That bill, by Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., would set aside $15 billion over five years to expand AIDS treatment worldwide through low-cost drugs.

The only sticking point in the compassionate, generous legislation is language over AIDS prevention efforts. The White House wants &uot;prevention education rooted in the proven abstinence-based approach,&uot; officials say. An obvious attempt to appease the party’s religious conservative base.

But the House International Relations Committee rejected an amendment stating that promoting abstinence and monogamy should have priority. The panel sided with a version offered by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., that does not give preference to any one preventive method. Supporters of this plan said that it was a mistake to focus on any one strategy when local customs vary widely around the world. They are correct in that regard.

Through this effort, the president is attempting to do the decent thing in an effort to fulfill the &uot;compassionate&uot; part of the &uot;compassionate conservatism&uot; he touted during the 2000 campaign. It would be a shame to see this humanitarian effort – one that would go a long way toward reassuring the world that America is a benevolent super power – hit an obstacle over efforts to placate special interests.