Bush on AIDS: Competing Moral Imperatives

Craig Sterritt


AIDS. 2003;17(18s) 

In This Article

Skepticism Among Scientists

There was good reason for members of the US and international scientific communities, and particularly those working in HIV/AIDS prevention and care, to question the worth and substance of Bush's proposal. This skepticism was not only in reaction to its stated goals and mechanisms of enactment, but also to the president's good faith vis-a-vis the actual materialization of his proposed $15 billion, and potential strings attached to its allocation.

After all, the Bush administration had a controversial record on AIDS and other public health and research issues, most notably those concerning contraception and abortion. Also of distinct concern to scientists and healthcare providers was the administration's unprecedented micromanagement, for political reasons, of scientific research matters (such as the stem cell debate) and institutions, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two ostensibly and traditionally nonpolitical organizations.

In light of this, Bush's sudden and striking attention to AIDS raised some eyebrows. Was the object of Bush's AIDS proposal an instant, high-profile, 'compassionate' yang to complement the yin of his only other major foreign policy initiative, the war in Iraq? Or were his proclaimed intentions and humanitarian motives genuine? In the former case of the former, it might seem that Bush was writing a check he didn't care if he, or Congress, could cash (notably, at a time when the Tao of his domestic policy was massive tax cuts). In the case of the latter, if we could only know for sure, there would be less cause to scruple Bush's newly proclaimed leadership in the global struggle against AIDS.

But we couldn't know for sure. All that one could deduce was the value of actions and things. The administration's AIDS policy prior to Bush's State of the Union Address evidenced a great deal more conservatism than compassion, and a lot of politics where politics, critics argued, shouldn't go.


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