AIDS & imperialism

South Africa saw a 57-percent jump in reported deaths between 1997 and 2003, with AIDS-related deaths contributing hugely to the increase, according to a recently issued report by a group called Statistics SA. One in five adults in the country is living with HIV/AIDS.

A statement issued by the Asian Development Bank and the Joint United National Program on HIV/AIDS has stressed that goals to reduce poverty in the Asia-Pacific region will not be achieved without more funds being allocated to fight HIV/AIDS.

In the United States, a case of a gay man who contracted a strain of HIV resistant to most drugs and that progressed to full-blown AIDS within two months has renewed the scapegoating and condemnation of gay men as the cause and source of the epidemic.

This focus is coupled in the media with exposés on the use of crystal methamphetamine in the gay community, which lowers inhibitions. As usual with discussions on community drug abuse, the social factors that contribute to that abuse, such as poverty and discrimination, are ignored. So is the fact that crystal meth is itself an epidemic that is rampant throughout the U.S., and is devastating rural as well as urban areas.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration's proposed 2006 budget calls for cuts to the tune of $4 million to AIDS prevention and surveillance programs. A $38-million increase is earmarked for "abstinence-only" programs that have been proven to increase the likelihood of unsafe sex.

This doesn't include Bush's call for a $4.5-billion cut to Medicaid--the largest provider of medical care to people with AIDS in the United States--over the next decade. The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has said that budget cuts proposed for the National Institutes of Health could very well lead to a halt on some AIDS vaccine research.

While Bush admits that communities of color have been hit hardest by the epidemic, he proposes no extra funding for the so-called Minority AIDS Initiative. And he proposes to cut the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS program by $14 million. While the Bush administration does propose an increase in global AIDS spending, it doesn't even cover a third of the estimated amount needed to counter the pandemic.

This is the "morality" for which the Bush administration congratulates itself. The real culprit for the spread of this pandemic is the capitalist system of private ownership, exploitation and greed that makes a planned, global effort to marshal the necessary resources--human, financial and material--so difficult.

Let the demand ring out, loud and clear: Money for AIDS research, treatment and health care, not war for imperialist empire!

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