Bush “The Best President On AIDS”?

Jim Burroway

July 2nd, 2008

Benkof thinks so. Internationally, one could make such an argument. But it’s easy to support AIDS work in Africa where its a mostly heterosexual disease.

But domestically, President Bush’s proposals for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention haven’t been keeping up with demand. This is especially true among young, African-American men who simply aren’t responding to the White House’s abstinence only messages. They have been the driving force behind recent increases in HIV infections, making up 49% of new infections in 2005.

What do you think? Is Bush the best, worst, or somewhere in between?

ted

July 2nd, 2008

I teach a class on Medicine, AIDS, and Culture, and I’ve taught several books that cover the history of AIDS and the US involvement therein. Oddly, Bush did more for AIDS than any other president — A LOT more. Granted, he did nothing for gay people, and he is responsible for the stupidity of abstinence-only education, and his administration (and others) has allowed the epidemic to spread unchecked among the African-American population. But PEPFAR has done more than anyone thought the US willing or capable of in the previous administrations — billions for drugs and education in Africa, saving countless lives. Clinton did nothing at all about global AIDS besides talking about it. He refused to spend any political capital on AIDS while fighting all his other losing battles. Bush I presided over a lot of funding increases in the US, actually, and he was the one that signed the Ryan White Care Act, which is basically what is keeping many HIV+ Americans alive. And, well, Reagan did nothing beyond allowing the Surgeon General to send out that lame pamphlet. It is odd that the Bushes did so much and Clinton so little. When it comes to gay rights, though, it’s the opposite — even with Clinton’s failure with DADT and DOMA.

Timothy Kincaid

July 2nd, 2008

I think that the current administration has been the best yet in recognizing the international ramifications of having double digit percentages of the working age population of nearly an entire continent die. I think that both compassion and political savvy went into the President’s decision to take AIDS in Africa seriously.

I commend him.

I agree that encumbering the aid efforts with conservative religious ideology made it less effective than it could have been. But nonetheless it far exceeded any other nation or administration.

As for domestic AIDS policy, I can’t really say that Bush is any more or any less responsive than Bill Clinton or, probably, Bush Sr. The Ryan White program is pretty much established at this point. And the administration, like all administrations, is having trouble dealing with shifting demographics.

I doubt that either an Obama or McCain administration would have AIDS policies that are significantly different from Bush’s – McCain for diplomatic and international interests, and Obama for ideological reasons. But that’s just a guess.

John

July 2nd, 2008

When it comes to gay rights, though, it’s the opposite — even with Clinton’s failure with DADT and DOMA.

I question this. Bush II pushed FMA to get elected and most everyone knew it had no chance of being adopted. Clinton, however, signed into law DOMA and DADT. Both hired openly gay personnel in the executive department. In the final analysis though, I’d say that Clinton did more damage because of what he signed. His rhetoric was nicer but his deeds were worse.

MirrorMan

July 2nd, 2008

Unfortunately, I do not have time today to investigate everything Benkof claims in his article, but something he wrote (or to be more precise, rewrote) caught my eye:
From his 07-2-2008 Star Tribune article – “After all, what lesbian ever died a horrible, painful death because the government called her relationship a domestic partnership instead of a marriage?”

From his 05-20-2008 article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “No lesbian ever died a painful death because the government called her relationship a domestic partnership instead of a marriage.”

Dan Savage responds in The Stranger on 05-21-2008, referencing the death of Lisa Pond, a lesbian in a committed relationship, with children, mind you, who suffered a fatal brain aneurysm just before the R Family Vacations cruise ship the family was taking left Miami for the Bahamas in February. Janice Langbehn, Pond’s’s partner for nearly 18 years,said officials at the University of Miami, Jackson Memorial Hospital did not recognize her or their jointly adopted children as part of Pond’s family. They were not allowed to be with her in the emergency room, and Langbehn’s authority to make decisions for Pond was not recognized.

Did she die “a horrible, painful death because the government called her relationship a domestic partnership instead of a marriage?”

I believe the point was made in the comments section of Savage’s post:

“Right there with ya, ’till the bit at the end. The woman didn’t die because of bigotry. Bad example.
Posted by A Non Imus | May 21, 2008 10:32 AM”

The response:
“You don’t think that woman died a more painful death because of the situation with her partner? He didn’t say “died” he said “died a painful death”. I would argue her last hours were certainly more painful than they needed to be because of bigotry.
Posted by Julie | May 21, 2008 10:38 AM”

I tend to agree with Julie, that fact that her loved ones were not allowed to be with her at the time must have been devastating for her. One can only imagine her confusion, loss, and pain. But take heart in one fact. According to Mr. Benkof, it’s not like they were married or anything….

The man’s willful obtuseness almost makes me physically ill. To willfully deny someone, anyone, of their rights is an affront to everything this country, and we as a people, should and do stand for. He should be ashamed, considering as he is a member of a rather oppressed minority, but I guess history is just a convenient footnote for him to ignore while he explores his “fame”. Pathetic.

CPT_Doom

July 2nd, 2008

As for domestic AIDS policy, I can’t really say that Bush is any more or any less responsive than Bill Clinton or, probably, Bush Sr. The Ryan White program is pretty much established at this point. And the administration, like all administrations, is having trouble dealing with shifting demographics.

With all due respect Timothy, I have to disagree strongly with you. This is from a Reuters report:

Between 2001 and 2006, male-to-male sex was the largest HIV transmission category in the US, and the only one associated with an increasing number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses, according to a report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The increase was highest among boys and men between the ages of 13 and 24 years who had sex with other males, particularly among ethnic minorities.

link: http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSCOL67099020080626

During the Bush administration, we have seen a complete change in HIV “prevention” policy. Rather than focusing on reducing the risk of transmitting HIV to others, wittingly or otherwise (i.e., using condoms), Bush et al chose to focus on testing – getting more people tested. The idea was that if people tested positive, they would then get counseling on how to treat HIV and prevent its spread. I think the numbers just released show how faulty that logic is.

The Bush administration, at least according to those I know in the HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention world (and I spent several years on the BOD of a local charitable giving organization that focused a lot on HIV/AIDS), was very clear in refusing to support efforts to spread safe-sex messages, especially among gay men. Couple that with the declining death rate in the US from AIDS and the direct-to-consumer advertising of HIV drugs, which make it seem like you just take a pill and HIV isn’t a problem, and is it any wonder young people are the ones with the largest increases in HIV rates? They did not bury dozens of their friends, as many men in my age range (40+) did; they don’t hear safe-sex messages unless those messages come from the LGBT community, and minority youth are less likely to self-identify as “gay” even when having homosexual relations; and the media tells them living with HIV is more than possible, so there is less incentive to practice safe sex.

It is my sincere hope that an Obama administration would reverse this deadly course.

Gary

July 2nd, 2008

For those of us who actually read this, I too was struck by the comment,”After all, what lesbian ever died a horrible, painful death because the government called her relationship a domestic partnership instead of a marriage?” and my thoughts immediately turned to Lisa Pond and Janice Langbehn.

It’s a frightening story and all the more so because it’s a local family.

some recent news coverage:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNsBLJn-NiA

But then . . . also the story of Kate Fleming/Charlene Strong:

http://www.newsweek.com/id/81305/page/1

MirrorMan

July 2nd, 2008

And as far as Bush being the “Best President on AIDS”, I say: Big Deal! Out of how many thousands of things he truly sucked at (and still does, mind you), he managed to get one right. He must have been the chimp typing Shakespeare. It was the law of averages, nothing more. Hell, Hitler painted pretty pictures, too.

rkmt7

July 2nd, 2008

B.U.S.H. BUCK UP S%*T HEAD. . . BENKOF
abstinence education< for street youth, hustlers, young prostitutes with ugly johns and controlling pimps!
abstinence education < for early offenders in lock-up facilities!
abstinence education < for folk on the down-low in african, hispanic, and even asian communities!
abstinence education < lonely closeted gay and bisexual men just coming to terms later in life!

Oh and the female partners, who are unaware of their male partners stepping out. Very high numbers of women infected in America, women of color.
where does abstinence come in?

I give more credit to the Laura, Jenna and Barbara. . .than I would to George W.

early folk who died due to an HIV infection and an compromised immune system, often left friends(and, in happier cases, family) going to a series of funerals. . .

today, those infected with HIV do have more support, caseworkers, the ADA, and the cocktails, drug cocktails. But an HIV status can be hidden or worn proudly, but for the most part, it is becoming a manageable long-term illness. Those with an HIV infection are often not surviving due to the toxicity of the drug cocktails, non-compliance with the treatment (passive or not), or just lose the will to continue.

HIV is an issue for MSM, men who have sex with men. . .and since mr benkof waivers from being a gay activst to celebate bisexual to someone attempting to reclaim his heterosexuality maybe, just maybe he can come up with effective outreach strategies to reach those folk. Yes Prez W. has increased funding for HIV prevention, care and research, but I believe that Gates Foundation rivals the entire US in their wonder grants , and the Foundation doesn’t place expectations, pass judgements or dictates lifestyles.

Gary

July 2nd, 2008

His latest. . .”Protect transgender prisoners ” . . .disgusting and offensive.

He says: “I thought it’s probably my responsibility to adopt at least one non-marriage LGBT issue around which to express my gay activism.” Then goes on a diatribe about prison rape of transexuals.

Emily K

July 2nd, 2008

I notice that most of the comments he gets on his blog are from people who disagree or don’t think he should be taken seriously.

Gary

July 2nd, 2008

Emily K:

He is a one man band. . .

. . .nobody seems to notice that on his site all of the links in his supposed “blogroll” are just wordpress defaults.

Personally, I would never comment on his site. . .I know better.

simon

July 7th, 2008

who started this myth that Bush has good int’l AIDS policies? abstinence-only-until-marriage is not good policy anywhere! neither is scaring organizations from doing harm reduction with sex workers. yes, he’s appropriated a ton of money, but look at where that cash has ended up – often with right wing christian orgs on the prevention side, and with big drug companies on the treatment side. blech.

MrK

February 20th, 2014

” But domestically, President Bush’s proposals for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention haven’t been keeping up with demand. This is especially true among young, African-American men who simply aren’t responding to the White House’s abstinence only messages. They have been the driving force behind recent increases in HIV infections, making up 49% of new infections in 2005. ”

That’s a nice fantasy, however, show me the survey of the general population – not people walking into clinics – that shows any such high prevalence of HIV among African Americans.

You see what happens, is that African Americans are much more likely to be tested for HIV than the general population.

Figure 1 (tested for HIV within the last 12 months)
Whites: 14%
Latinos: 30%
Blacks: 45%

(NEVER TESTED)
Whites: 50%
Latinos: 45%
Blacks: 23%

Source: Figure 1
http://kff.org/hivaids/fact-sheet/hiv-testing-in-the-united-states/
(chart) http://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/percent-of-nonelderly-who-report-being-tested-for-hiv-by-race-ethnicity-hivaids-06132.png

It’s called ‘testing bias’ (not necessarily racial bias, however there is an overlap).

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