First thoughts about the fact that Bush spoke about AIDS in his performance tonight: I just cannot get too excited about the words, first, because right now they are only words, and second, because we are now twenty-three years into the age of AIDS, and any enthusiasm over this product of the political calculations of our current executive's handlers must be weighed against the tragedy of the real opportunities squandered by presidents and others all over the world decades ago to minimize or even eliminate the unspeakable death figures we look at today. The record is clear that they were informed, that they knew, that they did virtually nothing.
The text, excerpted from the State of the Union Address:
As our nation moves troops and builds alliances to make our world safer, we must also remember our calling as a blessed country is to make this world better.
Today, on the continent of Africa, nearly 30 million people have the AIDS virus including three million children under the age 15. There are whole countries in Africa where more than one-third of the adult population carries the infection. More than four million require immediate drug treatment. Yet across that continent only 50,000 AIDS victims only 50,000 are receiving the medicine they need. Because the AIDS diagnosis is considered a death sentence, many do not seek treatment. Almost all who do are turned away.
A doctor in rural South Africa describes his frustration. He says, "We have no medicines. Many hospitals tell people, `You've got AIDS. We can't help you. Go home and die.' "
In an age of miraculous medicines, no person should have to hear those words. AIDS can be prevented. Antiretroviral drugs can extend life for many years. And the cost of those drugs has dropped from $12,000 a year to under $300 a year, which places a tremendous possibility within our grasp.
Ladies and gentlemen, seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many. We have confronted and will continue to confront H.I.V./AIDS in our own country. And to meet a severe and urgent crisis abroad, tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa.
This comprehensive plan will prevent seven million new AIDS infections, treat at least two million people with life-extending drugs, and provide humane care for millions of people suffering from AIDS and for children orphaned by AIDS.
I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.
This nation can lead the world in sparing innocent people from a plague of nature. And this nation is leading the world in confronting and defeating the man-made evil of international terrorism.