Obama administration 'wants to go slow' on HIV/AIDS efforts, editorial says

"The road to ending AIDS comes with warning sign: Caution -- Politics Ahead. Just ask President Obama, who's getting a crash-course introduction," a San Francisco Chronicle editorial says.

It adds that Obama is "drawing howls for both his domestic and overseas AIDS policies. AIDS groups badly want to expand Bush-area policies they favored while doing away with conservative policies they opposed, such as a ban on federal money for needle exchanges." According to the editorial, Obama is not "moving fast or far enough" for "these critics."

It is an "unfair rap for the most part," the editorial says, adding, "But the problem underscores the loaded expectations that Obama brought with him to the White House. The Obama brain trust, hemmed in by a huge financial deficit and political caution, clearly wants to go slow." In addition, nothing in Obama's recently announced global health initiative "should disappoint or infuriate AIDS activists, though it has," according to the editorial. It adds, "Their gripe is that the existing U.S. program is showing results in stemming infections and Obama shouldn't go back on an important promise to expand that success." The editorial says, "Also, widening the fight by adding other targeted diseases shouldn't come at the expense of battling the virus that causes AIDS, critics say."

According to the editorial, there are "other worries," including that the "White House isn't following through on a promise to allow federal money for needle exchanges, a proven winner in curbing infections though a tough political sell." It adds, "It's a contorted position: Several key Obama health appointees favor needle swaps though White House budget language continues the ban." Also, as the "economy weakens and stimulus bills pile up, there are worries that foreign aid such as the giant AIDS program will feel the ax," the editorial says.

These "doubts are worth noting," but they "shouldn't obscure the bigger picture," the editorial says, adding, "The AIDS fight remains a signature American initiative, and the White House is hardly walking away from a commitment no other nation has taken on with such scale." According to the editorial, the "program's record in tamping down infection rates and building public health systems is all the more remarkable as the world struggles to coordinate a defense against swine flu." It concludes, "Adding on funds to go after other tropical diseases, diarrheal infections and infant pneumonia -- all treatable -- makes solid health policy sense. Obama's headed in the right direction, ever so cautiously" (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/13).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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