When asked by Letterman if there was anyone else other than Bono himself who could have made the African initiative successful, Bono responded
“And President Bush, you know, whom, you know, you might have arguments with on various levels, he actually led this and he deserves some credit for this.”He deserves plenty of credit for this. Because of PEPFAR, which GWB introduced in 2003, "about 1.2 million deaths were averted". This was according to a study by Eran Bendavid of Stanford University and Jayanta Bhattacharya from the National Bureau of Economic Research. George W Bush didn't just preach about Compassionate Conservatism, he lived it. So whenever I hear liberals and conservatives alike ranting endlessly about how GWB sucked as Leader of the Free World, it makes me wonder if they simply have their hate blinders on. I mean, c'mon, if you want to talk about leadership... This is the man who used the power he had to do good things, dare I say great things, for people who badly needed America's compassion. Not everything is about budget cuts this, or budget cuts that. Sometimes you need to turn those precious Christian ideals into action.
PEPFAR, the brainchild of President George W. Bush in 2003, has targeted Vietnam, Haiti, Guyana and 12 sub-Saharan nations for HIV testing, counseling and treatment. Statistics through Sep. 30, 2008, show that more than 2 million men, women and children have received antiretroviral treatment because of the program. This would include almost 1.2 million pregnant HIV-positive women. As a result, 240,000 infants were born free of HIV infection. The upshot, according to the Annals of Internal Medicine: a 10.5 percent reduction in the AIDS death rate in 12 PEPFAR countries in Africa compared with neighboring nations.
That is a quote from this Washington Post editorial from '09. But what George Bush and PEPFAR did for HIV/AIDS victims in Africa and around the world remain an admirable act of kindness to this day. You can talk about how horrible he was with spending or what-have-you, but George Bush had a lot of heart and these days, not a lot of people do.
Excerpts: From an interview with Amb. Mark Dybul about PEPFAR:
My first reaction was, “What are these people up to and what do they want?” I was not inclined to believe President Bush and people in the administration cared about these issues. I was so wrong. I had completely bought into the public caricature of the president. It was a great lesson for me about the inaccuracies of the way people are portrayed publicly. I made a number of trips to Uganda, starting in 2000, and presented work in intermittent therapy at the international AIDS meeting in Durban. It was a very important meeting.
The first important thing was the mother-to-child initiative. A lot of people forget President Bush had that initiative before there was PEPFAR. A couple of moments stood out. One was how rapidly a president and a White House could move. HHS was asked to formulate a plan in May 2002 for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and the initiative was announced in June in the Rose Garden. By the president of the United States! Then on that day, in the Rose Garden, after the president announced $500 million over five years – more than was spent at the time on an annual basis for all global HIV – we learned that the president had earlier turned to senior staff and said, “This is a good start but it isn’t enough, think big.” That was just breathtaking to me. It was a really dramatic moment, and it was clear to the people involved that the sky was the limit.
First, it is important to note that PEPFAR was President Bush’s vision and mandate. There are always stories about who was whispering in his ear, but it was all him.Here's a more recent article by Dr. Dybul!