Something missing from this good news story about a big drop in worldwide AIDS deaths

A UN report says that there has been a surprisingly large drop in worldwide deaths due to AIDS, and a significant drop in the number of new cases.


Death rates fell from 2.3 million during its peak in 2005 to 1.6 million last year, says UNAIDS.

The number of new HIV infections fell by a third since 2001 to 2.3 million.

Among children, the drop was even steeper. In 2001 there were more than half a million new infections. By 2012 the figure had halved to just over a quarter of a million.

The authors put the fall in deaths and infection rates in children down to better access to antiretroviral drugs which help suppress the virus.

Without treatment, people with HIV can go on to develop Aids which makes simple infections deadly.

By the end of 2012 almost 10m people in low and middle income countries, including South Africa, Uganda and India, were accessing antiretroviral therapy, according to the report.

The improved access is being attributed to drugs being more affordable and available in communities, as well as more people coming forward for help.

Bev Collins, Health Policy Advisor at Doctors without Borders said: "Huge leaps forward have been made to make sure that millions of people - especially in the developing world - can access lifesaving HIV treatment at an affordable price.

"But this is no time for complacency. We need to keep on rolling out access to better treatment strategies, expanding access to accurate, cost-effective testing, and to care"

Amazingly good news. But there's something missing from this news story. The experts are crediting "better access to antiretroviral drugs which help suppress the virus." But where did the drugs come from? Who bought them? Who paid for them.

You did, America. And a large part of the credit should go to one man; George W. Bush:

At more than $5 billion a year in humanitarian aid to Africa, President Bush has given more assistance to the continent than any other president.  His administration's aid was largely targeted to fight the major global health issues facing the continent, HIV/AIDS and malaria.

In 2003 Bush founded the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which guaranteed $15 million to be spent over the course of five years on prevention, treatment and research on HIV/AIDS. Under the Bush administration, the U.S. was also a leader in contributing to the Global Fund on AIDS.

Though there was controversy over some of the qualifications for PEPFAR funds -up to 20% was to be spent on abstinence-focused prevention programs, and the funds could not be used for needle-sharing programs - most HIV/AIDS activists credit the program for being instrumental in turning the tide on AIDS.

Before PEPFAR, an estimated 100,000 people were on anti-retroviral drugs in sub-Saharan Africa. By the time Bush left office in 2008 that number had increased to about 2 million.

In 2005 Bush started a $1.2 billion  initiative to fight malaria. He defended the request for funding in 2007, saying, "There's no reason for little babies to be dying of mosquito bites around the world."

At Thursday's ceremony, President Clinton said in his travels throughout Africa he had "personally seen the faces of some of the millions of people who are alive today" because of Bush's policies.

Even some of Bush's most ardent critics have admitted that his foreign policy legacy on Africa continues to have a lasting effect.

U2 front-man and activist Bono, who criticized Bush on the Iraq War, nonetheless expressed his admiration for the Republican president on an appearance on the Daily Show last year, telling Stewart that Bush did an "amazing" job in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

"I know that's hard for you to accept," Bono said to a surprised crowd and host, "but George kind of knocked it out of the park. I can tell you, and I'm actually here to tell you that America now has 5 million people being kept alive by these drugs. That's something that everyone should know."

The UN won't acknowledge Bush's huge contribution to saving 5 million lives. And it would kill the BBC to say anyting good about President Bush.

But facts are facts, even if they are ignored for petty political reasons. I would guess that the people of Africa know who is saving lives and who is making pretty talk.


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