February 7: Zapping the Czar
Shortly after Team Bush takes over, chief of staff Andrew Card announces plans to cut the office of the AIDS czar. After a tumult ensues, spokesman Ari Fleischer claims Card “made a mistake.”
April 9: No Money for Meds
Bush’s budget request to Congress is the first to propose no increase for the Ryan White CARE Act. By summer 2003, state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs), funded by the CARE Act, are broke, and meds wait lists grow nationwide. At least seven PWAs die awaiting treatment.
April 9: Going Gay
Bush names Scott Evertz, ex-bigwig within the gay Log Cabin Republicans, as AIDS czar—the first openly gay man to hold the post. A year later, when right-wing pressure bumps the condom defender from the post, Bush replaces him with gay HIV doc (and federal AIDS bureaucrat) Joe O’Neill.
August: Poison Pen
Republican congressman Mark Souder writes health secretary Tommy Thompson to decry sexually explicit HIV-prevention workshops at San Francisco’s gay Stop AIDS Project. The feds then audit the group three times over two years—and by summer 2004 have cut all its Centers for Disease Control (CDC) funding.
November 14: Protecting Patents
Bush OKs the Doha Declaration, which allows countries to make or buy generic versions of patented meds to fight health crises like AIDS. Team Bush then signs separate agreements limiting generic access with several countries—and insists that the FDA approve meds bought with U.S. global-AIDS funds, all but blocking generics in favor of big pharma brands.
February 2: Virgins Only
Bush announces a $33 million increase for abstinence-only education, an unproven approach that he claims “works 100 percent of the time.”
March 1: Unwise Council
Bush answers rumors that he’ll abolish the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS by renewing its mandate—and stocking it with abstinence-only true believers. They include Tom Coburn, the antigay ex-congressman from Oklahoma who says condoms are so ineffective they should carry warning labels.
October: Corrupting Condoms
The CDC website deletes a fact sheet on how to use condoms (which included data on their efficacy against HIV) and substitutes a fact sheet emphasizing condom failure and urging abstinence.
December 30: Powell Play
Secretary of State Colin Powell cables U.S. foreign-aid staffers worldwide to clarify that AIDS funding cannot support needle exchange or HIV prevention among sex workers. In February, right-wing groups had savaged him for defending condoms on MTV.
January 28: Global Glitch
In his State of the Union address, Bush announces $15 billion over five years to combat global AIDS, by far the largest presidential AIDS pledge. In May, the final President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) sets aside one-third of prevention dollars for abstinence-only education.
April 17: “Positive” Changes
The CDC announces “prevention for positives,” which will replace prevention funds for high-risk groups with a new focus on testing and interventions by HIV docs during regular appointments. In June 2004, the agency defunds two-thirds of the community-based HIV prevention programs it once supported.
October: Science Scare
The antigay Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) creates a list of 289 federal grants supporting research into sexuality, drug addiction and HIV prevention that it wants defunded. The list goes from the TVC to right-wing congressional staffers to the National Institutes of Health, which warns scientists that their funding is at risk. The scare is later called an accident.
May 16: Generics in Jeopardy
Criticized for not buying generic meds with PEPFAR funds, Thompson announces that the FDA will offer expedited approval for generic combo pills, even though many are already qualified by the World Health Organization. As of August, no generic makers have bothered to apply for FDA approval—and many countries are avoiding using PEPFAR funds for meds.
June 23: Keeping the Faith
Revving up his reelection push at a Philadelphia church, Bush says he’ll put $20 million toward easing ADAP wait lists but calls for more White House control over Ryan White funds—and urges that faith-based ASOs not be “discriminated against.” ACT UP rages outside.
MAKING AIDS HIS OWN
"George W. Bush [did] what no other Republican president before him had done: he [divined] a way to make AIDS his own. Rather than focus on the uncomfortable challenges of the domestic epidemic, where three-fourths of all AIDS cases still occur among gay men, injection drug users, and their partners, Bush turned his sights on the global epidemic, with its millions of infected mothers and children and sympathetic AIDS orphans. At home he might have to grapple with condoms and clean needles, but abroad he could put his energies into mother-to-child transmission, a significant source of new infections in Africa and the Caribbean. Rather than seek advice from the AIDS researchers, doctors, social workers, advocates, and people living with HIV who had set the AIDS agenda in the past, he would listen to pharmaceutical executives intent on preserving drug profits and to social conservatives whose abhorrence of gay and extramarital sex was matched only by their lack of AIDS expertise. Rather than promote public health solutions, he emphasized “personal responsibility.” Rather than condoms, his mantra was abstinence and marriage. In Bush’s hands, AIDS was born again— as a conservative issue."