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. Rex Mcbeth

    Sir aero windia. What does overpopulation have to do with STDs? Even if every child was sterile, stds can transfer by other means. I do agree with you in some aspects. Perhaps humans damaged the Earth so much, mother is trying to eradicate us to save the remaining species from oblivion. PS: forgive my mispellings and typos for there aren't any spellcheckers on this phone.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
  2. patti

    We need to educate india and china about condoms and show them how it stops disease.

    September 21, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
  3. Big Bob

    C'mon CNN, 40 minutes to moderate a simple paragraph?

    September 21, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
    • Critter

      @Big Bob

      I have found it useful to simply hit the "back" button and look for the "bad letter combinations" in my "stalled" post. (Some people have waited for days with no luck.)

      you can't say words that have:

      c-um in them (go ahead and laugh), like docu-ment or accu-mulate.
      T-i T in them, like at-itude or const-itution.
      s-ex, like s-exual or Esse-x

      yet you CAN say ass. humdinger of a word filter, eh?

      and if you have these problems in your "email" address, your post will also get "stumped".

      There are a few others, but I can't remember them at the moment.
      Hit that "back" button and comb through your post. I'll bet you'll find the problem right quick.

      September 21, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
  4. Aero Windia

    Chaos hath enshroudeth thine Earth. The human population doth fell thy planet. Please have your children and pets spayed or neutered. Thanks in advance.

    September 21, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
  5. phoenixcat

    shoeshine man needs to invite alfred e nueman to the crib and smack him in his puss

    September 21, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
  6. wow23

    Barack Obama is just the person we needed for the job. he is a culturally diverse man with compassion and understanding for ALL people. he was not born into a wealthy family, and have all those special opportunities like george bush, and he certainly did not ride ANYONES coattails into office. even if some of his policies did not work out the way he had planned, he has certainly broken many boundaries and stereotypes with his election to office.

    September 21, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  7. Rick McDaniel

    We have donated enough to foreign countries to help with the fight on aids.

    September 21, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
  8. Tyler V


    If you know anything about Jim Wallace (or many Christians in general), your association of him (just because he is a Christians) as a spineless drone of the right wing agenda, is just shockingly ignorant.

    September 21, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Tyler V

      I don't know Jim Wallace, but I do know a number of Christians. In my personal life and on these blogs.

      I agree with critter.

      September 21, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
    • Critter

      @Tyler V

      I did not call him a "spineless drone" of ANYTHING.
      Perhaps my description of the "log" in his eye is incorrect. If so, I apologize. No one should suffer the GOP log in their eye, but it has been known to happen.
      Too many Christians have tried to take over our politics on both sides of the "aisle". They have only partially succeeded.

      It was my suggestion that he might find it easier to "influence" the GOP since he is a Christian. Of course, I did not mean this in a nice way...so I guess my post just went right over your head, Tyler.

      Stand tall and catch those things right in your forehead like you are supposed to! LOL

      September 21, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
  9. David Johnson

    Christine O'Donnell will then fix teen pregnancy. She may pass out Purity Rings and have the kids sign Purity Pledges.

    Abstinence is unrealistic and cannot be the basis for federal policy. Federal data indicate that fewer than 10 percent of Americans abstain from ~ex before marriage. My co-authored study of church-going Southern Baptists found that only a quarter of the most active members who attend Sunday School every week abstained from ~ex until marriage. – Source: Baltimore Sun By Janet Rosenbaum Story posted 2010.09.20 at 05:16 PM EDT

    In the past decade, the federal government has spent more than $1 billion on programs that promote abstinence as the only healthy choice to make about ~ex before marriage. Last week, the government's own long-term evaluation of the initiatives, required by Congress in 1997, showed that these programs seem to accomplish essentially nothing. Source: Slate "Spend $1 billion on abstinence education. Get nothing." By Amanda Schaffer Posted Friday, April 20, 2007, at 12:16 PM ET

    Baby Jesus needs to be kept out of decision making. He has bronze age ideas. Cheers!

    September 21, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
  10. MRz..PC

    It's sad that ignorant losers don't care anything about the epidemic, maybe because it's not affecting their community. Bush blew the money to shut D.C up about this situation for how long?...Don't give me the bull crap on what Bush did because he cared so much right?...just as musch as he cared when Katrina hit New Orleans....Education is key and if we (ghetto folk) don't have the resources what do we do?.....Demand it!

    September 21, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
    • Twm

      And the current President did so much with the BP Spill LOL. Come on at least Bush owned that mistake. Obama blames everyone else. As for the aids research , stop wasting money it is helping rid our World of undesirables.

      September 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
  11. Back to school for you, bub


    Your "masterly" response is sorely lacking in English skills. The National Sarcasm Society *really* needs you to join right away!

    September 21, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  12. David Johnson

    Christine O'Donnell will fix the AIDS epidemic. She will tell the whole world to abstain! She will explain that even touching their nasty private places makes Jesus sad.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
    • Mike

      This is your master debating skills that is going to persuade multiple generat-ions

      September 21, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
  13. Big Bob

    Actually, the Bush Administration threw so much money at that lost cause that even a liberal stalwart such as Bono had high praise for him. And don't think it was easy for Bono to do that!

    September 21, 2010 at 11:54 am |
  14. The_Dude

    There are a 1000 new democrat voters born in the ghettos every day.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:46 am |
    • David Johnson

      Yeah, but they won't be eligible to vote for the Dems in November. What a shame.

      September 21, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
  15. Jesse

    We need to put those additional 1 billion dollars on research, cure, and medictation for treatment here in the USA!

    September 21, 2010 at 11:44 am |
    • Twm

      No we needs to spend those billions on new jobs.

      September 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  16. CJ

    As much as I agree that US should be a world leader in the HIV cause. Bush had to be pressured into it and was not in the financial situation that the nation currently is in. I do not see how President Obama can commit such amounts without public out cry from the Right on spending let alone get it passed through.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  17. HotAirAce

    The rcc modifying (cause they don't actually *change* their beliefs) their stand on condoms would go a long way to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS...

    September 21, 2010 at 11:17 am |
    • Reality

      The "skinny" on condoms:

      As per the Guttmacher Insti-tute, male con-doms fail 17.4 % of the time. Failure rate for abstinence and mast-urba-tion, 0 %.

      September 21, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Understand, but I think you'd agree that this is a case of "something/anything is better than nothing," especially given that abstinence is not likely to become widespread, especially with evil religions around that say a woman must submit...

      September 21, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
  18. thom o

    What about AIDS in America?

    September 21, 2010 at 11:10 am |
    • Twm

      What about it? We have spent tons of money wasted really. Why stop something that helps ease the overabundance of population in the World??

      September 21, 2010 at 2:05 pm |
    • Twm

      Who cares.

      September 21, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
  19. Critter

    I would guess that the only way this seems relevant to CNNs "belief" blog is that the author is CEO of a Christian organization.
    AIDS/HIV is a disease that kiIIs many people. It can be spread rather easily in places where STD education is lacking.

    I would suggest to the fellow with something on his chin that he do his best to stop the obstructionist agenda of the GOP if he wants to see ANYTHING done about ANYTHING.
    As a "Christian", perhaps this will not be too hard for him. An article is not money in the pockets of the bribe-able Republicans in Congress.

    If anyone has a few hundred millions of dollars, maybe they could pay the right "politicians" to make this happen, as that seems to be the way anything gets done inside the Beltway anymore.

    Quit blaming the President you clod, and look at that GOP log in your own eye.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:55 am |
    • wow23

      amen to that haha

      September 21, 2010 at 3:08 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 10:18 pm |
    • Bret

      You must not know who Wallis is!.. He is an avid Obama supporter and recently started a back and forth against Glenn Beck. He's straight from the left on all things. He says that the fundamentally tenet of the new testament is redistribution of wealth. I.E. If he wished to lay it at the feet of Republicans he could. However, the truth is what it is on this case. There is NOTHING in the republican agenda that would stop this. Especially since the vast majority of this policy was started in 04 under both a republican president and congress.

      September 23, 2010 at 10:07 am |
  20. David Johnson

    I think charity begins at home.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:17 am |
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About this blog

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.