I can see it now. The world will be very different. The president of the United States will receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his lifesaving aid to victims of disease in Africa. Government and civic leaders from Europe and Asia will express their admiration. Americans will walk a little taller. Barack Obama will bow his head as the ribboned medal is extended
But wait. The president who deserves such an honor is in office now. It is George W. Bush who has devoted so much time, energy, and money (well, our money, but it was legal) to fighting AIDS and other diseases in Africa.
From the beginning of his administration, President Bush has pushed for more aid to Africa. Motivated perhaps by his deeply felt Christian faith (relieving poverty in Africa has become a major charitable push among evangelicals), the president has pressed for greater aid to Africa across the board. The original PEPFAR legislation (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), which passed in 2003, was the largest single health investment by any government ever ($15 billion). At the time the initiative was launched, only about 50,000 sub-Saharan Africans were receiving antiretroviral treatment for AIDS. Today, 1.7 million people in the region, as well as tens of thousands more around the globe, are receiving such treatment. PEPFAR has also funded efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the AIDS virus, provided compassionate care to the sick and dying, and cared for 5 million orphans. One aspect of the program has been to reduce the stigma of the AIDS diagnosis in Africa.
In July of this year, the president requested that funding for PEPFAR be doubled to $30 billion. The new funding will be used to train 140,000 new health care workers. It would also address other illnesses, like tuberculosis, that often complicate AIDS.
The president also backed a malaria initiative that has provided an estimated 25 million Africans with nets, spraying, and other prevention and treatment options. Separate from the AIDS funds, the president has tripled development assistance and humanitarian aid to Africa since taking office.