When George W. Bush appointed seven new members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) at the end of July, he made sure they’d be part of the Hallelujah Chorus cheering on the Bush administration’s opposition to science-based sex education.
All but one of the new appointments are Flat-Earthers from the Christ-er right, condom opponents, propagandists for the utterly failed policy of “abstinence until marriage” as the only way to fight the spread of AIDS, virulent homophobes, abortion opponents or promoters of “junk science” that has been denounced as fraudulent by the entire medical and scientific establishments.
These appointments are so bad that the sober folks at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), in the words of its public policy vice president, William Smith, denounced Bush’s latest additions to PACHA as “ideological rabble that would sooner see a return to chastity belts and closeted queers than see another condom distributed with taxpayer dollars.”
Two of those just added to PACHA are part of the infamous Joe McIlheney Jr.’s Texas-based Medical Institute for Sexual Health. This junk science factory of anti-condom propaganda is the ideological wellspring of the Bush administration’s global attempt to use U.S. AIDS-fighting dollars as political patronage for the Christ-er right’s drive to make mandatory abstinence-only sex ed the sole weapon against HIV infection. A longtime personal and political crony of Bush’s from the Lone Star State, McIlheney was denounced by the Union of Concerned Scientists as “a scientist with questionable credentials” when Bush appointed him to PACHA in 2004.
Two of Bush’s new appointments—Marilyn Maxwell and Freda McKissick Bush, no relation—are on the National Advisory Board of McIlhe-ney’s Institute (McKissick Bush is also on its board of directors).
Another example: new appointee Barbara Wise, who runs a personal promotion and abstinence-only outfit called Wise Choices. Both Wise Choices and Colorado’s federally funded, abstinence-only propaganda shop Friends First, to which Wise is also linked, use a curriculum that an SIECUS review found to be “bad on condoms, gender stereotyping and LGBTQ issues.” These groups promote the so-called crisis pregnancy centers that have received more than $30 million from the Bushies for programs that, a report by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said, “provided false and misleading information about the physical and mental health effects of abortion and grossly exaggerated the medical risks of abortion.” Wise, a favorite on the Christ-er right lecture circuit, is a featured speaker at fundamentalist Christian conferences that discuss things like “overcoming homosexuality.”
There was a time when appointments like these would have been loudly denounced by such AIDS advocacy groups as AIDS Action and the National Association of People With AIDS, but this time neither bothered to issue so much as a press release. This may reflect the sad fact that PACHA—which had reputable medical, scientific and HIV positive members when it was set up under Bill Clinton—is now nothing more than a rubber stamp for the fraudulent Bush AIDS agenda. PACHA has already been stacked by Bush with delegates from Big Pharma and religious thugs like Rev. Herbert Lusk of Philadelphia, an Philadelphia Eagles football player turned preacher who is also a key player in Bush’s faith-based initiatives (the president has spoken at Lusk’s church), a rabid homophobe and an East Coast mouthpiece for the Christ-er right group Focus on the Family.
Under Bush, PACHA is no longer a part of the solution to the challenge of the AIDS pandemic—it has become part of the problem.