September 21st, 2010
08:39 AM ET

My Take: George W. Bush led on AIDS. Will Obama?

Editor's Note: Jim Wallis is CEO of Sojourners and author of "Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street — A Moral Compass for the New Economy."

By Jim Wallis, Special to CNN

The world needs President Barack Obama to be a global leader on HIV/AIDS.

It was not that long ago faith leaders and millions of activists organized across the globe to press President George W. Bush to respond to the AIDS pandemic and fund solutions to end extreme global poverty.

The result of bold American leadership led to nothing short of a historic wave of success. Today, nearly four million Africans are on life saving HIV/AIDS medicines, up from 50,000 in 2002. President Bush’s legacy in the fight against global AIDS is strong, but much more needs to be done.

Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to continue that leadership. But today, his promise has yet to be kept. Fortunately, it's not too late for him to do so.

The economy is complicated and there are lots of conflicting opinions as to what the best policy is to get it headed in the right direction. The health care system has been a mess and improvements to it are going to take a while and will be pretty complicated. Immigration reform is simply being blocked by Republicans and Democrats haven’t had the courage to lead on it.

But when it comes to turning back the AIDS pandemic and ending extreme poverty, we have a very clear path forward. There are 192 nations that committed to the Millennium Development Goals in 2001. They are a series of eight targeted goals that would produce dramatic results in turning back the tide of global pandemics and reducing extreme poverty, and they gave us a roadmap as to how this all could happen by 2015.

U.S. leadership on these goals and the work to back them up have received broad bipartisan support within Congress. Countries across the world are now in tough economic straits, so if the United States falters in its leadership the huge successes these goals have already accomplished could stall.

Unfortunately, one major source of funding to fight AIDS, The Presidents Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) has been neglected.

During his campaign, President Obama made a promise to increase PEPFAR funding by $1 billion a year if elected. Last year, the White House recommended a small increase of funding from $6.6 billion to $6.7 billion. It looks like PEPFAR will receive only a small increase this year. That's a broken promise.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is an international public-private partnership that's leading the global fight against these diseases. In the past decade the Global Fund has provided AIDS treatment for 2.8 million people, TB treatment for 7 million people and provided 122 million bed nets to protect families from malaria.

Over the years, the international health and development community has refined the practices and targeted their resources to where they do the most good. This work translates into 5.7 million lives saved over the past decade and, today, an average of 4,000 lives saved daily.

This is smart policy in tough economic times. For every dollar the US contributes, another two dollars are leveraged from other countries. During his campaign, President Obama pledged a significant increase in funding to fight AIDS. Since coming into office, U.S. funding for successful initiatives like PEPFAR and the Global Fund have flatlined.

This week’s UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals offers an important backdrop and opportunity to turn this trend around. World leaders are gathering with twin goals that are possible by 2015: the reality that no child will be born with HIV and an end to malaria deaths.

There are five years left to accomplish these goals and there is still time to make a difference for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. It is both a political and moral imperative now that President Obama fulfill his campaign pledge to be a global leader on AIDS and end extreme poverty. To do so, he must pledge $6 billion dollars over the next 3 years to the Global Fund.

For those of us in this country, it's a matter of Obama fulfilling a campaign promise. For the world’s poorest, it's a matter of life and death.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jim Wallis.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Barack Obama • Opinion • Politics • Poverty

soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Nathaniel Tarabokija

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    November 24, 2011 at 4:12 am |
  2. razors for men

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    August 7, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  3. Iqbal khan

    Its never too late, with all due respect I ask Honerable president Obama to do what he promised before the election to end the Unjust Bush's Wars and save us all.

    September 28, 2010 at 9:27 pm |
  4. Mr. Davidson

    Obama is pushing Aids and Africa and Aids in the USA and African Americans in general ,under the carpet under his desk with both feet. The problem is epidemic in the African American community in the US. Obama is only focused on the "War for profit for special interest corporations in Afganistan. Nobody in our congress has ever even mentioned the severity of oil spills in the Nigerian delta in fear of alarming oil giants like BP.corruption is in our midst.

    September 22, 2010 at 8:55 am |
  5. nakedemperornews.com

    Republican ??? I have audio of Jim Wallis saying that he is a Marxist and he believes that it is Christian to Redistribute
    the wealth....you want the audio, check Jim Wallace at http://www.nakedemperornews.com/ before you play the 'religious
    right card' with me pal. And I am just as liberal about gay marriage , abortion etc.
    check your sources before you put him in the Republican category . Does anyone dare to check it out or are you just going to believe what CNN 'decides' to report.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:07 pm |
  6. Sharon

    For 2 years Obama hasn't said anything about it–nor did he speak about it on his Obama health care! On 9-13-09, Obama said: "once the health care is passed I will own it. The commentator on CBS with an one on one with Obama-asked Obama how he would pay for it, Obama said: "for those you have insurance–aren't getting any healthier–take those monies and make a better deal to someone it can help". Those were his exact words!

    September 21, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
    • nakedemperornews.com

      Here is President Obama in his 'own' words on video (and audio) on how he is going to achieve "single payer".
      If I can't convince you maybe 'our' President could

      September 21, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
  7. Reality

    Follow the money trail when it comes to likes of Jim Wallis, Billy Graham, Glenn Beck, Franklin Graham, Eboo Patel et al.


    "In July 2010, Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief of WORLD magazine, wrote that Sojourners accepted money from George Soros, who has financed groups supporting abortion and atheism.[6] Jim Wallis responded as follows: "It's not hyperbole or overstatement to say that Glenn Beck lies for a living. I'm sad to see Marvin Olasky doing the same thing. No, we don't receive money from Soros." Wallis later admitted that Sojourners had, in fact, accepted funds from Soros' Open Society Inst-itute. Wallis stated that the funds made up "the tiniest fraction of Sojourner's funding during that decade–so small that I hadn't remembered them."[6] The grants from the Open Society Insti-tute totaled $275,000 from 2004 to 2007.[7] Wallis apologized to Olasky for his comments about him. Jay Richards wrote that Sojourners had received $2.2 million from various foundation grants from 2003 to 2009, including the Tides Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Wallace Global Fund, and the Streisand Foundation."

    Maybe the Sojourners aka Jim Wallis will sponsor AIDs research with some of their funding? No donations to AIDs support listed on their IRS Form 990. But what do we find on the Sojourners aka Jim Wallis' IRS Form 990 (guidestar.org).

    Jim Wallis is paid $351,140/yr which includes benefits and speaking honoraria for doing things like giving BO grief about AIDs funding. They/he also have/has ~$1 million invested in the stock and bond market. (A million dollars for AIDS support in Africa would be great.) Again Mr. Wallis/Sojourners pays no taxes on the dividends, interest or capital gains on these investments.

    September 21, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  8. Aero Windia

    Thou art may speakith of mother nature as yea desire. Behold, leave mine mother alone. Thou art O wicked humanines, the lord's wraith hath descendeth upon us all. Do you expect God stand idle whilst yea transgressors destroy the Earth? Blast, are we not the steward and stewardess of the Earth. Turn from thine inequties. As for thine spelling, thou shout use a dictionary.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  9. T.rex

    Many believe that the so-called pandemic in Africa is due to maltnutrition, sanitation, clean water, and diseases such at TB and malaria, NOT the result of anything HIV is doing.

    Regardless if you buy into the theory, it makes sense that those issues are equally important, if not more important than HIV. If you're gonna spend money, your first goal should be to get them clean water, not aids meds.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.