Bush AIDS Speech Draws Fire

Fri. June 25, 2004 12:00 AM by 365gay.com

Washington, D.C. - A speech by President Bush Wednesday at an African American church in Philadelphia has drawn the ire of AIDS care workers, activists and civil rights leaders.

The President's 5,000 word speech repeatedly drove home the message that abstinence is the best way to prevent HIV/AIDS. Bush spoke at length about programs to teach children to abstain from sex. "It works every time," he said. But, the president only mentioned the use of condoms once, and then only in passing.

The speech, at the Greater Exodus Baptist Church where the Rev. Herb Lusk has been a loyal Bush supporter and proponent of abstinence programs, drew AIDS care workers from the Philadelphia area, along with politicians.

"While we laud the president’s attention to HIV/AIDS and his promise to allocate some funds to key programs, the president supports abstinence-only-until-marriage education — programs that time and again have been proven ineffective in stopping the spread of sexually transmitted diseases,” said HRC President Cheryl Jacques.

Dorena Kearney, who runs the Colors Organization, dismissed the speech at politically motivated.

Kearney said that only two weeks ago her agency learned that the Centers for Disease Control had cut its annual funding. As a result, she told the Philadelphia Enquirer, four staff members will be let go and thousands of people will not hear Colors' message of prevention.

She also condemned church based groups who in the past have done little to fight what they called the "gay disease."

"Now when the funding stream changes and it's all faith-based initiatives, churches are trying to get in line for it because it's about the money," Kearney told the Enquirer.

In South Africa Thursday, hundreds of demonstrators marched to protest U.S. polices on AIDS, demanding that President Bush do more and stop undermining efforts to treat and prevent the disease.

In Johannesburg, about 500 angry AIDS activists, many wearing red and white T-shirts that said "HIV Positive," criticized Bush, saying he had hurt the global fight against AIDS by spending billions of dollars on war.

They also contended he undermined the global fight against AIDS by limiting access to condoms, reproductive choices and generic drugs.

"We promote choice, we don't dictate like George Bush. His policy is killing people, it is making the problem worse," said Mark Heywood, a leader the Treatment Action Campaign, an AIDS activist group in South Africa.

by Doreen Brandt
365Gay.com Newscenter
Washington Bureau
©365Gay.com® 2004

This article originally appeared on 365gay.com. Republished with permission.



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