Why Was Laura Bush Picketed in South Africa?

During her visit to Cape Town, South Africa, on Tuesday, Laura Bush was picketed by members of Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa's largest HIV/AIDS activism group.>

Esack is a founding member of both Treatment Action Campaign and Positive Muslims, based in Cape Town, which does work on AIDS. He said today: "The U.S. has been doing a lot to promote the idea that it is actively engaged in the struggle against HIV/AIDS, but the truth is that it has been long on rhetoric, and short on substance. Furthermore, many of the U.S. policies on AIDS have, in fact, been counterproductive as they are tied to U.S. domestic policy questions on sexuality, on abortion and on condom usage. In South Africa, the struggle against AIDS is intensely connected to the struggle for gender justice and reproductive health, so policies of the U.S. are having an increasingly negative effect. ... In fact, hundreds of protesters have showed up during Laura Bush's visit to public venues to protest U.S. policies on HIV/AIDS."

Russell is director of international advocacy for the group Health GAP. She said today: "By now Laura Bush should understand that her husband's global AIDS policies are undermining the rights of African women -- through denying women access to lifesaving prevention tools like condoms; through blocking the purchase of cheaper, WHO-approved generic AIDS drugs; and through refusing to pay the U.S. fair share into the Global Fund. ... Putting ideology ahead of science is bad medicine for women with AIDS."

Dossani is the director of the 50 Years Is Enough Network. He said today: "Laura Bush's recent remarks ignore the history of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa. ... Following a century of colonial rule, IMF and World Bank policies further decimated African economies, leaving women with few economic prospects and forcing many into the sex trade. Thus, abstinence-only sex education is a farce. The economic realities underpinning prostitution must be addressed by allowing governments to spend on AIDS treatment and prevention -- including condom distribution -- instead of on debt repayments and puritanical policies destined to fail the people of Africa, yet again. In 2003, Bush promised $15 billion in new money to combat AIDS in Africa, a pittance compared to U.S. military expenditures. As yet, very little of this money has materialized and the U.S. remains one of the only countries opposed to the expansion of the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria."

* G8, Live8 and Debt

Dembele is from Senegal and is with the African Forum on Alternatives. He said today: "We feel betrayed by the political messages championed by the celebrity leadership of Live8 and Make Poverty History. We believe that their demands have failed to confront the underlying causes of poverty and injustice. ... Debt and unfair terms of trade are merely symptoms of the power the G8 leaders wield over other nations. As long as the G8 retains control of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the UN Security Council, the poorer nations will always be subject to decisions in which they do not participate, and which are made in the interests of corporations based in the rich North."

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

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